Publications

Displaying 1 - 90 of 90
  • Acheson, D. J., Ganushchak, L. Y., Christoffels, I. K., & Hagoort, P. (2012). Conflict monitoring in speech production: Physiological evidence from bilingual picture naming. Brain and Language, 123, 131 -136. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2012.08.008.

    Abstract

    Self-monitoring in production is critical to correct performance, and recent accounts suggest that such monitoring may occur via the detection of response conflict. The error-related negativity (ERN) is a response-locked event-related potential (ERP) that is sensitive to response conflict. The present study examines whether response conflict is detected in production by exploring a situation where multiple outputs are activated: the bilingual naming of form-related equivalents (i.e. cognates). ERPs were recorded while German-Dutch bilinguals named pictures in their first and second languages. Although cognates were named faster than non-cognates, response conflict was evident in the form of a larger ERN-like response for cognates and adaptation effects on naming, as the magnitude of cognate facilitation was smaller following the naming of cognates. Given that signals of response conflict are present during correct naming, the present results suggest that such conflict may serve as a reliable signal for monitoring in speech production.
  • Adank, P., Davis, M. H., & Hagoort, P. (2012). Neural dissociation in processing noise and accent in spoken language comprehension. Neuropsychologia, 50, 77-84. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.10.024.

    Abstract

    We investigated how two distortions of the speech signal–added background noise and speech in an unfamiliar accent - affect comprehension of speech using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Listeners performed a speeded sentence verification task for speech in quiet in Standard Dutch, in Standard Dutch with added background noise, and for speech in an unfamiliar accent of Dutch. The behavioural results showed slower responses for both types of distortion compared to clear speech, and no difference between the two distortions. The neuroimaging results showed that, compared to clear speech, processing noise resulted in more activity bilaterally in Inferior Frontal Gyrus, Frontal Operculum, while processing accented speech recruited an area in left Superior Temporal Gyrus/Sulcus. It is concluded that the neural bases for processing different distortions of the speech signal dissociate. It is suggested that current models of the cortical organisation of speech are updated to specifically associate bilateral inferior frontal areas with processing external distortions (e.g., background noise) and left temporal areas with speaker-related distortions (e.g., accents).

    Additional information

    Adank_2012_Suppl_Info.doc
  • Adank, P., Noordzij, M. L., & Hagoort, P. (2012). The role of planum temporale in processing accent variation in spoken language comprehension. Human Brain Mapping, 33, 360-372. doi:10.1002/hbm.21218.

    Abstract

    A repetition-suppression functional magnetic resonance imaging paradigm was used to explore the neuroanatomical substrates of processing two types of acoustic variation—speaker and accent—during spoken sentence comprehension. Recordings were made for two speakers and two accents: Standard Dutch and a novel accent of Dutch. Each speaker produced sentences in both accents. Participants listened to two sentences presented in quick succession while their haemodynamic responses were recorded in an MR scanner. The first sentence was spoken in Standard Dutch; the second was spoken by the same or a different speaker and produced in Standard Dutch or in the artificial accent. This design made it possible to identify neural responses to a switch in speaker and accent independently. A switch in accent was associated with activations in predominantly left-lateralized areas including posterior temporal regions, including superior temporal gyrus, planum temporale (PT), and supramarginal gyrus, as well as in frontal regions, including left pars opercularis of the inferior frontal gyrus (IFG). A switch in speaker recruited a predominantly right-lateralized network, including middle frontal gyrus and prenuneus. It is concluded that posterior temporal areas, including PT, and frontal areas, including IFG, are involved in processing accent variation in spoken sentence comprehension
  • Araújo, S., Bramão, I., Faísca, L., Petersson, K. M., & Reis, A. (2012). Electrophysiological correlates of impaired reading in dyslexic pre-adolescent children. Brain and Cognition, 79, 79-88. doi:10.1016/j.bandc.2012.02.010.

    Abstract

    In this study, event related potentials (ERPs) were used to investigate the extent to which dyslexics (aged 9–13 years) differ from normally reading controls in early ERPs, which reflect prelexical orthographic processing, and in late ERPs, which reflect implicit phonological processing. The participants performed an implicit reading task, which was manipulated in terms of letter-specific processing, orthographic familiarity, and phonological structure. Comparing consonant- and symbol sequences, the results showed significant differences in the P1 and N1 waveforms in the control but not in the dyslexic group. The reduced P1 and N1 effects in pre-adolescent children with dyslexia suggest a lack of visual specialization for letter-processing. The P1 and N1 components were not sensitive to the familiar vs. less familiar orthographic sequence contrast. The amplitude of the later N320 component was larger for phonologically legal (pseudowords) compared to illegal (consonant sequences) items in both controls and dyslexics. However, the topographic differences showed that the controls were more left-lateralized than the dyslexics. We suggest that the development of the mechanisms that support literacy skills in dyslexics is both delayed and follows a non-normal developmental path. This contributes to the hemispheric differences observed and might reflect a compensatory mechanism in dyslexics.
  • Baggio, G., & Fonseca, A. (2012). Complex dynamics of semantic memory access in reading. Interface: Journal of the Royal Society, 9, 328-338. doi:10.1098/rsif.2011.0289.

    Abstract

    Understanding a word in context relies on a cascade of perceptual and conceptual processes, starting with modality-specific input decoding, and leading to the unification of the word's meaning into a discourse model. One critical cognitive event, turning a sensory stimulus into a meaningful linguistic sign, is the access of a semantic representation from memory. Little is known about the changes that activating a word's meaning brings about in cortical dynamics. We recorded the electroencephalogram (EEG) while participants read sentences that could contain a contextually unexpected word, such as ‘cold’ in ‘In July it is very cold outside’. We reconstructed trajectories in phase space from single-trial EEG time series, and we applied three nonlinear measures of predictability and complexity to each side of the semantic access boundary, estimated as the onset time of the N400 effect evoked by critical words. Relative to controls, unexpected words were associated with larger prediction errors preceding the onset of the N400. Accessing the meaning of such words produced a phase transition to lower entropy states, in which cortical processing becomes more predictable and more regular. Our study sheds new light on the dynamics of information flow through interfaces between sensory and memory systems during language processing.
  • Baggio, G. (2012). Selective alignment of brain responses by task demands during semantic processing. Neuropsychologia, 50, 655-665. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.01.002.

    Abstract

    The way the brain binds together words to form sentences may depend on whether and how the arising cognitive representation is to be used in behavior. The amplitude of the N400 effect in event-related brain potentials is inversely correlated with the degree of fit of a word's meaning into a semantic representation of the preceding discourse. This study reports a double dissociation in the latency characteristics of the N400 effect depending on task demands. When participants silently read words in a sentence context, without issuing a relevant overt response, greater temporal alignment over recording sites occurs for N400 onsets than peaks. If however a behavior is produced – here pressing a button in a binary probe selection task – exactly the opposite pattern is observed, with stronger alignment of N400 peaks than onsets. The peak amplitude of the N400 effect correlates best with the latency characteristic showing less temporal dispersion. These findings suggest that meaning construction in the brain is subtly affected by task demands, and that there is complex functional integration between semantic combinatorics and control systems handling behavioral goals.
  • Bosman, C., Schoffelen, J.-M., Brunet, N., Oostenveld, R., Bastos, A., Womelsdorf, T., Rubehn, B., Stieglitz, T., De Weerd, P., & Fries, P. (2012). Attentional stimulus selection through selective synchronization between monkey visual areas. Neuron, 75(5), 875-888. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2012.06.037.

    Abstract

    A central motif in neuronal networks is convergence, linking several input neurons to one target neuron. In visual cortex, convergence renders target neurons responsive to complex stimuli. Yet, convergence typically sends multiple stimuli to a target, and the behaviorally relevant stimulus must be selected. We used two stimuli, activating separate electrocorticographic V1 sites, and both activating an electrocorticographic V4 site equally strongly. When one of those stimuli activated one V1 site, it gamma synchronized (60-80 Hz) to V4. When the two stimuli activated two V1 sites, primarily the relevant one gamma synchronized to V4. Frequency bands of gamma activities showed substantial overlap containing the band of interareal coherence. The relevant V1 site had its gamma peak frequency 2-3 Hz higher than the irrelevant V1 site and 4-6 Hz higher than V4. Gamma-mediated interareal influences were predominantly directed from V1 to V4. We propose that selective synchronization renders relevant input effective, thereby modulating effective connectivity.
  • Bramão, I., Francisco, A., Inácio, F., Faísca, L., Reis, A., & Petersson, K. M. (2012). Electrophysiological evidence for colour effects on the naming of colour diagnostic and noncolour diagnostic objects. Visual Cognition, 20, 1164-1185. doi:10.1080/13506285.2012.739215.

    Abstract

    In this study, we investigated the level of visual processing at which surface colour information improves the naming of colour diagnostic and noncolour diagnostic objects. Continuous electroencephalograms were recorded while participants performed a visual object naming task in which coloured and black-and-white versions of both types of objects were presented. The black-and-white and the colour presentations were compared in two groups of event-related potentials (ERPs): (1) The P1 and N1 components, indexing early visual processing; and (2) the N300 and N400 components, which index late visual processing. A colour effect was observed in the P1 and N1 components, for both colour and noncolour diagnostic objects. In addition, for colour diagnostic objects, a colour effect was observed in the N400 component. These results suggest that colour information is important for the naming of colour and noncolour diagnostic objects at different levels of visual processing. It thus appears that the visual system uses colour information, during naming of both object types, at early visual stages; however, for the colour diagnostic objects naming, colour information is also recruited during the late visual processing stages.
  • Bramão, I., Faísca, L., Forkstam, C., Inácio, F., Araújo, S., Petersson, K. M., & Reis, A. (2012). The interaction between surface color and color knowledge: Behavioral and electrophysiological evidence. Brain and Cognition, 78, 28-37. doi:10.1016/j.bandc.2011.10.004.

    Abstract

    In this study, we used event-related potentials (ERPs) to evaluate the contribution of surface color and color knowledge information in object identification. We constructed two color-object verification tasks – a surface and a knowledge verification task – using high color diagnostic objects; both typical and atypical color versions of the same object were presented. Continuous electroencephalogram was recorded from 26 subjects. A cluster randomization procedure was used to explore the differences between typical and atypical color objects in each task. In the color knowledge task, we found two significant clusters that were consistent with the N350 and late positive complex (LPC) effects. Atypical color objects elicited more negative ERPs compared to typical color objects. The color effect found in the N350 time window suggests that surface color is an important cue that facilitates the selection of a stored object representation from long-term memory. Moreover, the observed LPC effect suggests that surface color activates associated semantic knowledge about the object, including color knowledge representations. We did not find any significant differences between typical and atypical color objects in the surface color verification task, which indicates that there is little contribution of color knowledge to resolve the surface color verification. Our main results suggest that surface color is an important visual cue that triggers color knowledge, thereby facilitating object identification.
  • Brookshire, G., & Casasanto, D. (2012). Motivation and motor control: Hemispheric specialization for approach motivation reverses with handedness. PLoS One, 7(4), e36036. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0036036.

    Abstract

    Background: According to decades of research on affective motivation in the human brain, approach motivational states are supported primarily by the left hemisphere and avoidance states by the right hemisphere. The underlying cause of this specialization, however, has remained unknown. Here we conducted a first test of the Sword and Shield Hypothesis (SSH), according to which the hemispheric laterality of affective motivation depends on the laterality of motor control for the dominant hand (i.e., the "sword hand," used preferentially to perform approach actions) and the nondominant hand (i.e., the "shield hand," used preferentially to perform avoidance actions). Methodology/Principal Findings: To determine whether the laterality of approach motivation varies with handedness, we measured alpha-band power (an inverse index of neural activity) in right- and left-handers during resting-state electroencephalography and analyzed hemispheric alpha-power asymmetries as a function of the participants' trait approach motivational tendencies. Stronger approach motivation was associated with more left-hemisphere activity in right-handers, but with more right-hemisphere activity in left-handers. Conclusions: The hemispheric correlates of approach motivation reversed between right- and left-handers, consistent with the way they typically use their dominant and nondominant hands to perform approach and avoidance actions. In both right- and left-handers, approach motivation was lateralized to the same hemisphere that controls the dominant hand. This covariation between neural systems for action and emotion provides initial support for the SSH
  • Brouwer, H., Fitz, H., & Hoeks, J. (2012). Getting real about semantic illusions: Rethinking the functional role of the P600 in language comprehension. Brain Research, 1446, 127-143. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2012.01.055.

    Abstract

    In traditional theories of language comprehension, syntactic and semantic processing are inextricably linked. This assumption has been challenged by the ‘Semantic Illusion Effect’ found in studies using Event Related brain Potentials. Semantically anomalous sentences did not produce the expected increase in N400 amplitude but rather one in P600 amplitude. To explain these findings, complex models have been devised in which an independent semantic processing stream can arrive at a sentence interpretation that may differ from the interpretation prescribed by the syntactic structure of the sentence. We review five such multi-stream models and argue that they do not account for the full range of relevant results because they assume that the amplitude of the N400 indexes some form of semantic integration. Based on recent evidence we argue that N400 amplitude might reflect the retrieval of lexical information from memory. On this view, the absence of an N400-effect in Semantic Illusion sentences can be explained in terms of priming. Furthermore, we suggest that semantic integration, which has previously been linked to the N400 component, might be reflected in the P600 instead. When combined, these functional interpretations result in a single-stream account of language processing that can explain all of the Semantic Illusion data.
  • Casasanto, D., & Henetz, T. (2012). Handedness shapes children’s abstract concepts. Cognitive Science, 36, 359-372. doi:10.1111/j.1551-6709.2011.01199.x.

    Abstract

    Can children’s handedness influence how they represent abstract concepts like kindness and intelligence? Here we show that from an early age, right-handers associate rightward space more strongly with positive ideas and leftward space with negative ideas, but the opposite is true for left-handers. In one experiment, children indicated where on a diagram a preferred toy and a dispreferred toy should go. Right-handers tended to assign the preferred toy to a box on the right and the dispreferred toy to a box on the left. Left-handers showed the opposite pattern. In a second experiment, children judged which of two cartoon animals looked smarter (or dumber) or nicer (or meaner). Right-handers attributed more positive qualities to animals on the right, but left-handers to animals on the left. These contrasting associations between space and valence cannot be explained by exposure to language or cultural conventions, which consistently link right with good. Rather, right- and left-handers implicitly associated positive valence more strongly with the side of space on which they can act more fluently with their dominant hands. Results support the body-specificity hypothesis (Casasanto, 2009), showing that children with different kinds of bodies think differently in corresponding ways.
  • Chang, F., Janciauskas, M., & Fitz, H. (2012). Language adaptation and learning: Getting explicit about implicit learning. Language and Linguistics Compass, 6, 259-278. doi:10.1002/lnc3.337.

    Abstract

    Linguistic adaptation is a phenomenon where language representations change in response to linguistic input. Adaptation can occur on multiple linguistic levels such as phonology (tuning of phonotactic constraints), words (repetition priming), and syntax (structural priming). The persistent nature of these adaptations suggests that they may be a form of implicit learning and connectionist models have been developed which instantiate this hypothesis. Research on implicit learning, however, has also produced evidence that explicit chunk knowledge is involved in the performance of these tasks. In this review, we examine how these interacting implicit and explicit processes may change our understanding of language learning and processing.
  • Cristia, A., Seidl, A., Vaughn, C., Schmale, R., Bradlow, A., & Floccia, C. (2012). Linguistic processing of accented speech across the lifespan. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 479. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00479.

    Abstract

    In most of the world, people have regular exposure to multiple accents. Therefore, learning to quickly process accented speech is a prerequisite to successful communication. In this paper, we examine work on the perception of accented speech across the lifespan, from early infancy to late adulthood. Unfamiliar accents initially impair linguistic processing by infants, children, younger adults, and older adults, but listeners of all ages come to adapt to accented speech. Emergent research also goes beyond these perceptual abilities, by assessing links with production and the relative contributions of linguistic knowledge and general cognitive skills. We conclude by underlining points of convergence across ages, and the gaps left to face in future work.
  • Demir, Ö. E., So, W.-C., Ozyurek, A., & Goldin-Meadow, S. (2012). Turkish- and English-speaking children display sensitivity to perceptual context in referring expressions they produce in speech and gesture. Language and Cognitive Processes, 27, 844 -867. doi:10.1080/01690965.2011.589273.

    Abstract

    Speakers choose a particular expression based on many factors, including availability of the referent in the perceptual context. We examined whether, when expressing referents, monolingual English- and Turkish-speaking children: (1) are sensitive to perceptual context, (2) express this sensitivity in language-specific ways, and (3) use co-speech gestures to specify referents that are underspecified. We also explored the mechanisms underlying children's sensitivity to perceptual context. Children described short vignettes to an experimenter under two conditions: The characters in the vignettes were present in the perceptual context (perceptual context); the characters were absent (no perceptual context). Children routinely used nouns in the no perceptual context condition, but shifted to pronouns (English-speaking children) or omitted arguments (Turkish-speaking children) in the perceptual context condition. Turkish-speaking children used underspecified referents more frequently than English-speaking children in the perceptual context condition; however, they compensated for the difference by using gesture to specify the forms. Gesture thus gives children learning structurally different languages a way to achieve comparable levels of specification while at the same time adhering to the referential expressions dictated by their language.
  • Dimitrova, D. V., Stowe, L. A., Redeker, G., & Hoeks, J. C. J. (2012). Less is not more: Neural responses to missing and superfluous accents in context. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24, 2400-2418. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00302.

    Abstract

    Prosody, particularly accent, aids comprehension by drawing attention to important elements such as the information that answers a question. A study using ERP registration investigated how the brain deals with the interpretation of prosodic prominence. Sentences were embedded in short dialogues and contained accented elements that were congruous or incongruous with respect to a preceding question. In contrast to previous studies, no explicit prosodic judgment task was added. Robust effects of accentuation were evident in the form of an “accent positivity” (200–500 msec) for accented elements irrespective of their congruity. Our results show that incongruously accented elements, that is, superfluous accents, activate a specific set of neural systems that is inactive in case of incongruously unaccented elements, that is, missing accents. Superfluous accents triggered an early positivity around 100 msec poststimulus, followed by a right-lateralized negative effect (N400). This response suggests that redundant information is identified immediately and leads to the activation of a neural system that is associated with semantic processing (N400). No such effects were found when contextually expected accents were missing. In a later time window, both missing and superfluous accents triggered a late positivity on midline electrodes, presumably related to making sense of both kinds of mismatching stimuli. These results challenge previous findings of greater processing for missing accents and suggest that the natural processing of prosody involves a set of distinct, temporally organized neural systems.
  • Fessler, D. M., Stieger, S., Asaridou, S. S., Bahia, U., Cravalho, M., de Barros, P., Delgado, T., Fisher, M. L., Frederick, D., Perez, P. G., Goetz, C., Haley, K., Jackson, J., Kushnick, G., Lew, K., Pain, E., Florindo, P. P., Pisor, A., Sinaga, E., Sinaga, L. and 3 moreFessler, D. M., Stieger, S., Asaridou, S. S., Bahia, U., Cravalho, M., de Barros, P., Delgado, T., Fisher, M. L., Frederick, D., Perez, P. G., Goetz, C., Haley, K., Jackson, J., Kushnick, G., Lew, K., Pain, E., Florindo, P. P., Pisor, A., Sinaga, E., Sinaga, L., Smolich, L., Sun, D. M., & Voracek, M. (2012). Testing a postulated case of intersexual selection in humans: The role of foot size in judgments of physical attractiveness and age. Evolution and Human Behavior, 33, 147-164. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2011.08.002.

    Abstract

    The constituents of attractiveness differ across the sexes. Many relevant traits are dimorphic, suggesting that they are the product of intersexual selection. However, direction of causality is generally difficult to determine, as aesthetic criteria can as readily result from, as cause, dimorphism. Women have proportionately smaller feet than men. Prior work on the role of foot size in attractiveness suggests an asymmetry across the sexes, as small feet enhance female appearance, yet average, rather than large, feet are preferred on men. Previous investigations employed crude stimuli and limited samples. Here, we report on multiple cross-cultural studies designed to overcome these limitations. With the exception of one rural society, we find that small foot size is preferred when judging women, yet no equivalent preference applies to men. Similarly, consonant with the thesis that a preference for youth underlies intersexual selection acting on women, we document an inverse relationship between foot size and perceived age. Examination of preferences regarding, and inferences from, feet viewed in isolation suggests different roles for proportionality and absolute size in judgments of female and male bodies. Although the majority of these results bolster the conclusion that pedal dimorphism is the product of intersexual selection, the picture is complicated by the reversal of the usual preference for small female feet found in one rural society. While possibly explicable in terms of greater emphasis on female economic productivity relative to beauty, the latter finding underscores the importance of employing diverse samples when exploring postulated evolved aesthetic preferences.

    Additional information

    Fessler_2011_Suppl_material.pdf
  • Fitch, W. T., Friederici, A. D., & Hagoort, P. (2012). Pattern perception and computational complexity: Introduction to the special issue. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 367 (1598), 1925-1932. doi:10.1098/rstb.2012.0099.

    Abstract

    Research on pattern perception and rule learning, grounded in formal language theory (FLT) and using artificial grammar learning paradigms, has exploded in the last decade. This approach marries empirical research conducted by neuroscientists, psychologists and ethologists with the theory of computation and FLT, developed by mathematicians, linguists and computer scientists over the last century. Of particular current interest are comparative extensions of this work to non-human animals, and neuroscientific investigations using brain imaging techniques. We provide a short introduction to the history of these fields, and to some of the dominant hypotheses, to help contextualize these ongoing research programmes, and finally briefly introduce the papers in the current issue.
  • Fonteijn, H. M., Modat, M., Clarkson, M. J., Barnes, J., Lehmann, M., Hobbs, N. Z., Scahill, R. I., Tabrizi, S. J., Ourselin, S., Fox, N. C., & Alexander, D. C. (2012). An event-based model for disease progression and its application in familial Alzheimer's disease and Huntington's disease. NeuroImage, 60, 1880-1889. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.01.062.

    Abstract

    Understanding the progression of neurological diseases is vital for accurate and early diagnosis and treatment planning. We introduce a new characterization of disease progression, which describes the disease as a series of events, each comprising a significant change in patient state. We provide novel algorithms to learn the event ordering from heterogeneous measurements over a whole patient cohort and demonstrate using combined imaging and clinical data from familial-Alzheimer's and Huntington's disease cohorts. Results provide new detail in the progression pattern of these diseases, while confirming known features, and give unique insight into the variability of progression over the cohort. The key advantage of the new model and algorithms over previous progression models is that they do not require a priori division of the patients into clinical stages. The model and its formulation extend naturally to a wide range of other diseases and developmental processes and accommodate cross-sectional and longitudinal input data.
  • Hagoort, P. (2012). Het muzikale brein. Speling: Tijdschrift voor bezinning. Muziek als bron van bezieling, 64(1), 44-48.
  • Hagoort, P. (2012). Het sprekende brein. MemoRad, 17(1), 27-30.

    Abstract

    Geen andere soort dan homo sapiens heeft in de loop van zijn evolutionaire geschiedenis een communicatiesysteem ontwikkeld waarin een eindig aantal symbolen samen met een reeks van regels voor het combineren daarvan een oneindig aantal uitdrukkingen mogelijk maakt. Dit natuurlijke taalsysteem stelt leden van onze soort in staat gedachten een uiterlijke vorm te geven en uit te wisselen met de sociale groep en, door de uitvinding van schriftsystemen, met de gehele samenleving. Spraak en taal zijn effectieve middelen voor het behoud van sociale cohesie in samenlevingen waarvan de groepsgrootte en de complexe sociale organisatie van dien aard is dat dit niet langer kan door middel van ‘vlooien’, de wijze waarop onze genetische buren, de primaten van de oude wereld, sociale cohesie bevorderen [1,2].
  • Hanulikova, A., Dediu, D., Fang, Z., Basnakova, J., & Huettig, F. (2012). Individual differences in the acquisition of a complex L2 phonology: A training study. Language Learning, 62(Supplement S2), 79-109. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9922.2012.00707.x.

    Abstract

    Many learners of a foreign language (L2) struggle to correctly pronounce newly-learned speech sounds, yet many others achieve this with apparent ease. Here we explored how a training study of learning complex consonant clusters at the very onset of the L2 acquisition can inform us about L2 learning in general and individual differences in particular. To this end, adult Dutch native speakers were trained on Slovak words with complex consonant clusters (e.g., pstruh /pstrux/‘trout’, štvrť /ʃtvrc/ ‘quarter’) using auditory and orthographic input. In the same session following training, participants were tested on a battery of L2 perception and production tasks. The battery of L2 tests was repeated twice more with one week between each session. In the first session, an additional battery of control tests was used to test participants’ native language (L1) skills. Overall, in line with some previous research, participants showed only weak learning effects across the L2 perception tasks. However, there were considerable individual differences across all L2 tasks, which remained stable across sessions. Only two participants showed overall high L2 production performance that fell within 2 standard deviations of the mean ratings obtained for an L1 speaker. The mispronunciation detection task was the only perception task which significantly predicted production performance in the final session. We conclude by discussing several recommendations for future L2 learning studies.
  • Hanulikova, A., Van Alphen, P. M., Van Goch, M. M., & Weber, A. (2012). When one person’s mistake is another’s standard usage: The effect of foreign accent on syntactic processing. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24(4), 878-887. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00103.

    Abstract

    How do native listeners process grammatical errors that are frequent in non-native speech? We investigated whether the neural correlates of syntactic processing are modulated by speaker identity. ERPs to gender agreement errors in sentences spoken by a native speaker were compared with the same errors spoken by a non-native speaker. In line with previous research, gender violations in native speech resulted in a P600 effect (larger P600 for violations in comparison with correct sentences), but when the same violations were produced by the non-native speaker with a foreign accent, no P600 effect was observed. Control sentences with semantic violations elicited comparable N400 effects for both the native and the non-native speaker, confirming no general integration problem in foreign-accented speech. The results demonstrate that the P600 is modulated by speaker identity, extending our knowledge about the role of speaker's characteristics on neural correlates of speech processing.
  • Jasmin, K., & Casasanto, D. (2012). The QWERTY Effect: How typing shapes the meanings of words. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 19, 499-504. doi:10.3758/s13423-012-0229-7.

    Abstract

    The QWERTY keyboard mediates communication for millions of language users. Here, we investigated whether differences in the way words are typed correspond to differences in their meanings. Some words are spelled with more letters on the right side of the keyboard and others with more letters on the left. In three experiments, we tested whether asymmetries in the way people interact with keys on the right and left of the keyboard influence their evaluations of the emotional valence of the words. We found the predicted relationship between emotional valence and QWERTY key position across three languages (English, Spanish, and Dutch). Words with more right-side letters were rated as more positive in valence, on average, than words with more left-side letters: the QWERTY effect. This effect was strongest in new words coined after QWERTY was invented and was also found in pseudowords. Although these data are correlational, the discovery of a similar pattern across languages, which was strongest in neologisms, suggests that the QWERTY keyboard is shaping the meanings of words as people filter language through their fingers. Widespread typing introduces a new mechanism by which semanntic changes in language can arise.
  • Junge, C., Cutler, A., & Hagoort, P. (2012). Electrophysiological evidence of early word learning. Neuropsychologia, 50, 3702-3712. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.10.012.

    Abstract

    Around their first birthday infants begin to talk, yet they comprehend words long before. This study investigated the event-related potentials (ERP) responses of nine-month-olds on basic level picture-word pairings. After a familiarization phase of six picture-word pairings per semantic category, comprehension for novel exemplars was tested in a picture-word matching paradigm. ERPs time-locked to pictures elicited a modulation of the Negative Central (Nc) component, associated with visual attention and recognition. It was attenuated by category repetition as well as by the type-token ratio of picture context. ERPs time-locked to words in the training phase became more negative with repetition (N300-600), but there was no influence of picture type-token ratio, suggesting that infants have identified the concept of each picture before a word was presented. Results from the test phase provided clear support that infants integrated word meanings with (novel) picture context. Here, infants showed different ERP responses for words that did or did not align with the picture context: a phonological mismatch (N200) and a semantic mismatch (N400). Together, results were informative of visual categorization, word recognition and word-to-world-mappings, all three crucial processes for vocabulary construction.
  • Junge, C., Kooijman, V., Hagoort, P., & Cutler, A. (2012). Rapid recognition at 10 months as a predictor of language development. Developmental Science, 15, 463-473. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2012.1144.x.

    Abstract

    Infants’ ability to recognize words in continuous speech is vital for building a vocabulary.We here examined the amount and type of exposure needed for 10-month-olds to recognize words. Infants first heard a word, either embedded within an utterance or in isolation, then recognition was assessed by comparing event-related potentials to this word versus a word that they had not heard directly before. Although all 10-month-olds showed recognition responses to words first heard in isolation, not all infants showed such responses to words they had first heard within an utterance. Those that did succeed in the latter, harder, task, however, understood more words and utterances when re-tested at 12 months, and understood more words and produced more words at 24 months, compared with those who had shown no such recognition response at 10 months. The ability to rapidly recognize the words in continuous utterances is clearly linked to future language development.
  • Kelly, S., Healey, M., Ozyurek, A., & Holler, J. (2012). The communicative influence of gesture and action during speech comprehension: Gestures have the upper hand [Abstract]. Abstracts of the Acoustics 2012 Hong Kong conference published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 131, 3311. doi:10.1121/1.4708385.

    Abstract

    Hand gestures combine with speech to form a single integrated system of meaning during language comprehension (Kelly et al., 2010). However, it is unknown whether gesture is uniquely integrated with speech or is processed like any other manual action. Thirty-one participants watched videos presenting speech with gestures or manual actions on objects. The relationship between the speech and gesture/action was either complementary (e.g., “He found the answer,” while producing a calculating gesture vs. actually using a calculator) or incongruent (e.g., the same sentence paired with the incongruent gesture/action of stirring with a spoon). Participants watched the video (prime) and then responded to a written word (target) that was or was not spoken in the video prime (e.g., “found” or “cut”). ERPs were taken to the primes (time-locked to the spoken verb, e.g., “found”) and the written targets. For primes, there was a larger frontal N400 (semantic processing) to incongruent vs. congruent items for the gesture, but not action, condition. For targets, the P2 (phonemic processing) was smaller for target words following congruent vs. incongruent gesture, but not action, primes. These findings suggest that hand gestures are integrated with speech in a privileged fashion compared to manual actions on objects.
  • Kempen, G., Olsthoorn, N., & Sprenger, S. (2012). Grammatical workspace sharing during language production and language comprehension: Evidence from grammatical multitasking. Language and Cognitive Processes, 27, 345-380. doi:10.1080/01690965.2010.544583.

    Abstract

    Grammatical encoding and grammatical decoding (in sentence production and comprehension, respectively) are often portrayed as independent modalities of grammatical performance that only share declarative resources: lexicon and grammar. The processing resources subserving these modalities are supposed to be distinct. In particular, one assumes the existence of two workspaces where grammatical structures are assembled and temporarily maintained—one for each modality. An alternative theory holds that the two modalities share many of their processing resources and postulates a single mechanism for the online assemblage and short-term storage of grammatical structures: a shared workspace. We report two experiments with a novel “grammatical multitasking” paradigm: the participants had to read (i.e., decode) and to paraphrase (encode) sentences presented in fragments, responding to each input fragment as fast as possible with a fragment of the paraphrase. The main finding was that grammatical constraints with respect to upcoming input that emanate from decoded sentence fragments are immediately replaced by grammatical expectations emanating from the structure of the corresponding paraphrase fragments. This evidences that the two modalities have direct access to, and operate upon, the same (i.e., token-identical) grammatical structures. This is possible only if the grammatical encoding and decoding processes command the same, shared grammatical workspace. Theoretical implications for important forms of grammatical multitasking—self-monitoring, turn-taking in dialogue, speech shadowing, and simultaneous translation—are explored.
  • Kim, A., & Lai, V. T. (2012). Rapid interactions between lexical semantic and word form analysis during word recognition in context: Evidence from ERPs. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24, 1104-1112. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00148.

    Abstract

    We used event-related potentials (ERPs) to investigate the timecourse of interactions between lexical-semantic and sub-lexical visual word-form processing during word recognition. Participants read sentence-embedded pseudowords that orthographically resembled a contextually-supported real word (e.g., “She measured the flour so she could bake a ceke …”) or did not (e.g., “She measured the flour so she could bake a tont …”) along with nonword consonant strings (e.g., “She measured the flour so she could bake a srdt …”). Pseudowords that resembled a contextually-supported real word (“ceke”) elicited an enhanced positivity at 130 msec (P130), relative to real words (e.g., “She measured the flour so she could bake a cake …”). Pseudowords that did not resemble a plausible real word (“tont”) enhanced the N170 component, as did nonword consonant strings (“srdt”). The effect pattern shows that the visual word recognition system is, perhaps counterintuitively, more rapidly sensitive to minor than to flagrant deviations from contextually-predicted inputs. The findings are consistent with rapid interactions between lexical and sub-lexical representations during word recognition, in which rapid lexical access of a contextually-supported word (CAKE) provides top-down excitation of form features (“cake”), highlighting the anomaly of an unexpected word “ceke”.
  • Kos, M., Van den Brink, D., Snijders, T. M., Rijpkema, M., Franke, B., Fernandez, G., Hagoort, P., & Whitehouse, A. (2012). CNTNAP2 and language processing in healthy individuals as measured with ERPs. PLoS One, 7(10), e46995. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046995.

    Abstract

    The genetic FOXP2-CNTNAP2 pathway has been shown to be involved in the language capacity. We investigated whether a common variant of CNTNAP2 (rs7794745) is relevant for syntactic and semantic processing in the general population by using a visual sentence processing paradigm while recording ERPs in 49 healthy adults. While both AA homozygotes and T-carriers showed a standard N400 effect to semantic anomalies, the response to subject-verb agreement violations differed across genotype groups. T-carriers displayed an anterior negativity preceding the P600 effect, whereas for the AA group only a P600 effect was observed. These results provide another piece of evidence that the neuronal architecture of the human faculty of language is shaped differently by effects that are genetically determined.
  • Kos, M., Van den Brink, D., & Hagoort, P. (2012). Individual variation in the late positive complex to semantic anomalies. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 318. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00318.

    Abstract

    It is well-known that, within ERP paradigms of sentence processing, semantically anomalous words elicit N400 effects. Less clear, however, is what happens after the N400. In some cases N400 effects are followed by Late Positive Complexes (LPC), whereas in other cases such effects are lacking. We investigated several factors which could affect the LPC, such as contextual constraint, inter-individual variation and working memory. Seventy-two participants read sentences containing a semantic manipulation (Whipped cream tastes sweet/anxious and creamy). Neither contextual constraint nor working memory correlated with the LPC. Inter-individual variation played a substantial role in the elicitation of the LPC with about half of the participants showing a negative response and the other half showing an LPC. This individual variation correlated with a syntactic ERP as well as an alternative semantic manipulation. In conclusion, our results show that inter-individual variation plays a large role in the elicitation of the LPC and this may account for the diversity in LPC findings in language research.
  • Lai, V. T., Hagoort, P., & Casasanto, D. (2012). Affective primacy vs. cognitive primacy: Dissolving the debate. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 243. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00243.

    Abstract

    When people see a snake, they are likely to activate both affective information (e.g., dangerous) and non-affective information about its ontological category (e.g., animal). According to the Affective Primacy Hypothesis, the affective information has priority, and its activation can precede identification of the ontological category of a stimulus. Alternatively, according to the Cognitive Primacy Hypothesis, perceivers must know what they are looking at before they can make an affective judgment about it. We propose that neither hypothesis holds at all times. Here we show that the relative speed with which affective and non-affective information gets activated by pictures and words depends upon the contexts in which stimuli are processed. Results illustrate that the question of whether affective information has processing priority over ontological information (or vice versa) is ill posed. Rather than seeking to resolve the debate over Cognitive vs. Affective Primacy in favor of one hypothesis or the other, a more productive goal may be to determine the factors that cause affective information to have processing priority in some circumstances and ontological information in others. Our findings support a view of the mind according to which words and pictures activate different neurocognitive representations every time they are processed, the specifics of which are co-determined by the stimuli themselves and the contexts in which they occur.
  • Lehtonen, M., Hulten, A., Rodríguez-Fornells, A., Cunillera, T., Tuomainen, J., & Laine, M. (2012). Differences in word recognition between early bilinguals and monolinguals: Behavioral and ERP evidence. Neuropsychologia, 50, 1362-1371. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2012.02.021.

    Abstract

    We investigated the behavioral and brain responses (ERPs) of bilingual word recognition to three fundamental psycholinguistic factors, frequency, morphology, and lexicality, in early bilinguals vs. monolinguals. Earlier behavioral studies have reported larger frequency effects in bilingualś nondominant vs. dominant language and in some studies also when compared to corresponding monolinguals. In ERPs, language processing differences between bilinguals vs. monolinguals have typically been found in the N400 component. In the present study, highly proficient Finnish-Swedish bilinguals who had acquired both languages during childhood were compared to Finnish monolinguals during a visual lexical decision task and simultaneous ERP recordings. Behaviorally, we found that the response latencies were overall longer in bilinguals than monolinguals, and that the effects for all three factors, frequency, morphology, and lexicality were also larger in bilinguals even though they had acquired both languages early and were highly proficient in them. In line with this, the N400 effects induced by frequency, morphology, and lexicality were larger for bilinguals than monolinguals. Furthermore, the ERP results also suggest that while most inflected Finnish words are decomposed into stem and suffix, only monolinguals have encountered high frequency inflected word forms often enough to develop full-form representations for them. Larger behavioral and neural effects in bilinguals in these factors likely reflect lower amount of exposure to words compared to monolinguals, as the language input of bilinguals is divided between two languages.
  • Mellem, M. S., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., Pilgrim, L. K., Medvedev, A. V., & Friedman, R. B. (2012). Word class and context affect alpha-band oscillatory dynamics in an older population. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 97. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00097.

    Abstract

    Differences in the oscillatory EEG dynamics of reading open class (OC) and closed class (CC) words have previously been found (Bastiaansen et al., 2005) and are thought to reflect differences in lexical-semantic content between these word classes. In particular, the theta-band (4–7 Hz) seems to play a prominent role in lexical-semantic retrieval. We tested whether this theta effect is robust in an older population of subjects. Additionally, we examined how the context of a word can modulate the oscillatory dynamics underlying retrieval for the two different classes of words. Older participants (mean age 55) read words presented in either syntactically correct sentences or in a scrambled order (“scrambled sentence”) while their EEG was recorded. We performed time–frequency analysis to examine how power varied based on the context or class of the word. We observed larger power decreases in the alpha (8–12 Hz) band between 200–700 ms for the OC compared to CC words, but this was true only for the scrambled sentence context. We did not observe differences in theta power between these conditions. Context exerted an effect on the alpha and low beta (13–18 Hz) bands between 0 and 700 ms. These results suggest that the previously observed word class effects on theta power changes in a younger participant sample do not seem to be a robust effect in this older population. Though this is an indirect comparison between studies, it may suggest the existence of aging effects on word retrieval dynamics for different populations. Additionally, the interaction between word class and context suggests that word retrieval mechanisms interact with sentence-level comprehension mechanisms in the alpha-band.
  • Menenti, L., Petersson, K. M., & Hagoort, P. (2012). From reference to sense: How the brain encodes meaning for speaking. Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 384. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00384.

    Abstract

    In speaking, semantic encoding is the conversion of a non-verbal mental representation (the reference) into a semantic structure suitable for expression (the sense). In this fMRI study on sentence production we investigate how the speaking brain accomplishes this transition from non-verbal to verbal representations. In an overt picture description task, we manipulated repetition of sense (the semantic structure of the sentence) and reference (the described situation) separately. By investigating brain areas showing response adaptation to repetition of each of these sentence properties, we disentangle the neuronal infrastructure for these two components of semantic encoding. We also performed a control experiment with the same stimuli and design but without any linguistic task to identify areas involved in perception of the stimuli per se. The bilateral inferior parietal lobes were selectively sensitive to repetition of reference, while left inferior frontal gyrus showed selective suppression to repetition of sense. Strikingly, a widespread network of areas associated with language processing (left middle frontal gyrus, bilateral superior parietal lobes and bilateral posterior temporal gyri) all showed repetition suppression to both sense and reference processing. These areas are probably involved in mapping reference onto sense, the crucial step in semantic encoding. These results enable us to track the transition from non-verbal to verbal representations in our brains.
  • Menenti, L., Segaert, K., & Hagoort, P. (2012). The neuronal infrastructure of speaking. Brain and Language, 122, 71-80. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2012.04.012.

    Abstract

    Models of speaking distinguish producing meaning, words and syntax as three different linguistic components of speaking. Nevertheless, little is known about the brain’s integrated neuronal infrastructure for speech production. We investigated semantic, lexical and syntactic aspects of speaking using fMRI. In a picture description task, we manipulated repetition of sentence meaning, words, and syntax separately. By investigating brain areas showing response adaptation to repetition of each of these sentence properties, we disentangle the neuronal infrastructure for these processes. We demonstrate that semantic, lexical and syntactic processes are carried out in partly overlapping and partly distinct brain networks and show that the classic left-hemispheric dominance for language is present for syntax but not semantics.
  • Menenti, L., Pickering, M. J., & Garrod, S. C. (2012). Towards a neural basis of interactive alignment in conversation. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 6, 185. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2012.00185.

    Abstract

    The interactive-alignment account of dialogue proposes that interlocutors achieve conversational success by aligning their understanding of the situation under discussion. Such alignment occurs because they prime each other at different levels of representation (e.g., phonology, syntax, semantics), and this is possible because these representations are shared across production and comprehension. In this paper, we briefly review the behavioral evidence, and then consider how findings from cognitive neuroscience might lend support to this account, on the assumption that alignment of neural activity corresponds to alignment of mental states. We first review work supporting representational parity between production and comprehension, and suggest that neural activity associated with phonological, lexical, and syntactic aspects of production and comprehension are closely related. We next consider evidence for the neural bases of the activation and use of situation models during production and comprehension, and how these demonstrate the activation of non-linguistic conceptual representations associated with language use. We then review evidence for alignment of neural mechanisms that are specific to the act of communication. Finally, we suggest some avenues of further research that need to be explored to test crucial predictions of the interactive alignment account.
  • Petersson, K. M., & Hagoort, P. (2012). The neurobiology of syntax: Beyond string-sets [Review article]. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 367, 1971-1883. doi:10.1098/rstb.2012.0101.

    Abstract

    The human capacity to acquire language is an outstanding scientific challenge to understand. Somehow our language capacities arise from the way the human brain processes, develops and learns in interaction with its environment. To set the stage, we begin with a summary of what is known about the neural organization of language and what our artificial grammar learning (AGL) studies have revealed. We then review the Chomsky hierarchy in the context of the theory of computation and formal learning theory. Finally, we outline a neurobiological model of language acquisition and processing based on an adaptive, recurrent, spiking network architecture. This architecture implements an asynchronous, event-driven, parallel system for recursive processing. We conclude that the brain represents grammars (or more precisely, the parser/generator) in its connectivity, and its ability for syntax is based on neurobiological infrastructure for structured sequence processing. The acquisition of this ability is accounted for in an adaptive dynamical systems framework. Artificial language learning (ALL) paradigms might be used to study the acquisition process within such a framework, as well as the processing properties of the underlying neurobiological infrastructure. However, it is necessary to combine and constrain the interpretation of ALL results by theoretical models and empirical studies on natural language processing. Given that the faculty of language is captured by classical computational models to a significant extent, and that these can be embedded in dynamic network architectures, there is hope that significant progress can be made in understanding the neurobiology of the language faculty.
  • Petersson, K. M., Folia, V., & Hagoort, P. (2012). What artificial grammar learning reveals about the neurobiology of syntax. Brain and Language, 120, 83-95. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2010.08.003.

    Abstract

    In this paper we examine the neurobiological correlates of syntax, the processing of structured sequences, by comparing FMRI results on artificial and natural language syntax. We discuss these and similar findings in the context of formal language and computability theory. We used a simple right-linear unification grammar in an implicit artificial grammar learning paradigm in 32 healthy Dutch university students (natural language FMRI data were already acquired for these participants). We predicted that artificial syntax processing would engage the left inferior frontal region (BA 44/45) and that this activation would overlap with syntax-related variability observed in the natural language experiment. The main findings of this study show that the left inferior frontal region centered on BA 44/45 is active during artificial syntax processing of well-formed (grammatical) sequence independent of local subsequence familiarity. The same region is engaged to a greater extent when a syntactic violation is present and structural unification becomes difficult or impossible. The effects related to artificial syntax in the left inferior frontal region (BA 44/45) were essentially identical when we masked these with activity related to natural syntax in the same subjects. Finally, the medial temporal lobe was deactivated during this operation, consistent with the view that implicit processing does not rely on declarative memory mechanisms that engage the medial temporal lobe. In the context of recent FMRI findings, we raise the question whether Broca’s region (or subregions) is specifically related to syntactic movement operations or the processing of hierarchically nested non-adjacent dependencies in the discussion section. We conclude that this is not the case. Instead, we argue that the left inferior frontal region is a generic on-line sequence processor that unifies information from various sources in an incremental and recursive manner, independent of whether there are any processing requirements related to syntactic movement or hierarchically nested structures. In addition, we argue that the Chomsky hierarchy is not directly relevant for neurobiological systems.
  • Poletiek, F. H., & Lai, J. (2012). How semantic biases in simple adjacencies affect learning a complex structure with non-adjacencies in AGL: A statistical account. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 367, 2046 -2054. doi:10.1098/rstb.2012.0100.

    Abstract

    A major theoretical debate in language acquisition research regards the learnability of hierarchical structures. The artificial grammar learning methodology is increasingly influential in approaching this question. Studies using an artificial centre-embedded AnBn grammar without semantics draw conflicting conclusions. This study investigates the facilitating effect of distributional biases in simple AB adjacencies in the input sample—caused in natural languages, among others, by semantic biases—on learning a centre-embedded structure. A mathematical simulation of the linguistic input and the learning, comparing various distributional biases in AB pairs, suggests that strong distributional biases might help us to grasp the complex AnBn hierarchical structure in a later stage. This theoretical investigation might contribute to our understanding of how distributional features of the input—including those caused by semantic variation—help learning complex structures in natural languages.
  • Rowbotham, S., Holler, J., Lloyd, D., & Wearden, A. (2012). How do we communicate about pain? A systematic analysis of the semantic contribution of co-speech gestures in pain-focused conversations. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 36, 1-21. doi:10.1007/s10919-011-0122-5.

    Abstract

    The purpose of the present study was to investigate co-speech gesture use during communication about pain. Speakers described a recent pain experience and the data were analyzed using a ‘semantic feature approach’ to determine the distribution of information across gesture and speech. This analysis revealed that a considerable proportion of pain-focused talk was accompanied by gestures, and that these gestures often contained more information about pain than speech itself. Further, some gestures represented information that was hardly represented in speech at all. Overall, these results suggest that gestures are integral to the communication of pain and need to be attended to if recipients are to obtain a fuller understanding of the pain experience and provide help and support to pain sufferers.
  • Scheeringa, R., Petersson, K. M., Kleinschmidt, A., Jensen, O., & Bastiaansen, M. C. M. (2012). EEG alpha power modulation of fMRI resting state connectivity. Brain Connectivity, 2, 254-264. doi:10.1089/brain.2012.0088.

    Abstract

    In the past decade, the fast and transient coupling and uncoupling of functionally related brain regions into networks has received much attention in cognitive neuroscience. Empirical tools to study network coupling include fMRI-based functional and/or effective connectivity, and EEG/MEG-based measures of neuronal synchronization. Here we use simultaneously recorded EEG and fMRI to assess whether fMRI-based BOLD connectivity and frequency-specific EEG power are related. Using data collected during resting state, we studied whether posterior EEG alpha power fluctuations are correlated with connectivity within the visual network and between visual cortex and the rest of the brain. The results show that when alpha power increases BOLD connectivity between primary visual cortex and occipital brain regions decreases and that the negative relation of the visual cortex with anterior/medial thalamus decreases and ventral-medial prefrontal cortex is reduced in strength. These effects were specific for the alpha band, and not observed in other frequency bands. Decreased connectivity within the visual system may indicate enhanced functional inhibition during higher alpha activity. This higher inhibition level also attenuates long-range intrinsic functional antagonism between visual cortex and other thalamic and cortical regions. Together, these results illustrate that power fluctuations in posterior alpha oscillations result in local and long range neural connectivity changes.
  • Schmale, R., Cristia, A., & Seidl, A. (2012). Toddlers recognize words in an unfamiliar accent after brief exposure. Developmental Science, 15, 732-738. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2012.01175.x.

    Abstract

    Both subjective impressions and previous research with monolingual listeners suggest that a foreign accent interferes with word recognition in infants, young children, and adults. However, because being exposed to multiple accents is likely to be an everyday occurrence in many societies, it is unexpected that such non-standard pronunciations would significantly impede language processing once the listener has experience with the relevant accent. Indeed, we report that 24-month-olds successfully accommodate an unfamiliar accent in rapid word learning after less than 2 minutes of accent exposure. These results underline the robustness of our speech perception mechanisms, which allow listeners to adapt even in the absence of extensive lexical knowledge and clear known-word referents.
  • Segaert, K., Menenti, L., Weber, K., Petersson, K. M., & Hagoort, P. (2012). Shared syntax in language production and language comprehension — An fMRI study. Cerebral Cortex, 22, 1662-1670. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhr249.

    Abstract

    During speaking and listening syntactic processing is a crucial step. It involves specifying syntactic relations between words in a sentence. If the production and comprehension modality share the neuronal substrate for syntactic processing then processing syntax in one modality should lead to adaptation effects in the other modality. In the present functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment, participants either overtly produced or heard descriptions of pictures. We looked for brain regions showing adaptation effects to the repetition of syntactic structures. In order to ensure that not just the same brain regions but also the same neuronal populations within these regions are involved in syntactic processing in speaking and listening, we compared syntactic adaptation effects within processing modalities (syntactic production-to-production and comprehension-to-comprehension priming) with syntactic adaptation effects between processing modalities (syntactic comprehension-to-production and production-to-comprehension priming). We found syntactic adaptation effects in left inferior frontal gyrus (Brodmann's area [BA] 45), left middle temporal gyrus (BA 21), and bilateral supplementary motor area (BA 6) which were equally strong within and between processing modalities. Thus, syntactic repetition facilitates syntactic processing in the brain within and across processing modalities to the same extent. We conclude that that the same neurobiological system seems to subserve syntactic processing in speaking and listening.
  • Seidl, A., & Cristia, A. (2012). Infants' learning of phonological status. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 448. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00448.

    Abstract

    There is a substantial literature describing how infants become more sensitive to differences between native phonemes (sounds that are both present and meaningful in the input) and less sensitive to differences between non-native phonemes (sounds that are neither present nor meaningful in the input) over the course of development. Here, we review an emergent strand of literature that gives a more nuanced notion of the problem of sound category learning. This research documents infants’ discovery of phonological status, signaled by a decrease in sensitivity to sounds that map onto the same phonemic category vs. different phonemic categories. The former phones are present in the input, but their difference does not cue meaning distinctions because they are tied to one and the same phoneme. For example, the diphthong I in I’m should map to the same underlying category as the diphthong in I’d, despite the fact that the first vowel is nasal and the second oral. Because such pairs of sounds are processed differently than those than map onto different phonemes by adult speakers, the learner has to come to treat them differently as well. Interestingly, there is some evidence that infants’ sensitivity to dimensions that are allophonic in the ambient language declines as early as 11 months. We lay out behavioral research, corpora analyses, and computational work which sheds light on how infants achieve this feat at such a young age. Collectively, this work suggests that the computation of complementary distribution and the calculation of phonetic similarity operate in concert to guide infants toward a functional interpretation of sounds that are present in the input, yet not lexically contrastive. In addition to reviewing this literature, we discuss broader implications for other fundamental theoretical and empirical questions.
  • Silva, C., Faísca, L., Ingvar, M., Petersson, K. M., & Reis, A. (2012). Literacy: Exploring working memory systems. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 34(4), 369-377. doi:10.1080/13803395.2011.645017.

    Abstract

    Previous research showed an important association between reading and writing skills (literacy) and the phonological loop. However, the effects of literacy on other working memory components remain unclear. In this study, we investigated performance of illiterate subjects and their matched literate controls on verbal and nonverbal working memory tasks. Results revealed that the phonological loop is significantly influenced by literacy, while the visuospatial sketchpad appears to be less affected or not at all. Results also suggest that the central executive might be influenced by literacy, possibly as an expression of cognitive reserve.

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  • Stein, J. L., Medland, S. E., Vasquez, A. A., Hibar, D. P., Senstad, R. E., Winkler, A. M., Toro, R., Appel, K., Bartecek, R., Bergmann, Ø., Bernard, M., Brown, A. A., Cannon, D. M., Chakravarty, M. M., Christoforou, A., Domin, M., Grimm, O., Hollinshead, M., Holmes, A. J., Homuth, G. and 184 moreStein, J. L., Medland, S. E., Vasquez, A. A., Hibar, D. P., Senstad, R. E., Winkler, A. M., Toro, R., Appel, K., Bartecek, R., Bergmann, Ø., Bernard, M., Brown, A. A., Cannon, D. M., Chakravarty, M. M., Christoforou, A., Domin, M., Grimm, O., Hollinshead, M., Holmes, A. J., Homuth, G., Hottenga, J.-J., Langan, C., Lopez, L. M., Hansell, N. K., Hwang, K. S., Kim, S., Laje, G., Lee, P. H., Liu, X., Loth, E., Lourdusamy, A., Mattingsdal, M., Mohnke, S., Maniega, S. M., Nho, K., Nugent, A. C., O'Brien, C., Papmeyer, M., Pütz, B., Ramasamy, A., Rasmussen, J., Rijpkema, M., Risacher, S. L., Roddey, J. C., Rose, E. J., Ryten, M., Shen, L., Sprooten, E., Strengman, E., Teumer, A., Trabzuni, D., Turner, J., van Eijk, K., van Erp, T. G. M., van Tol, M.-J., Wittfeld, K., Wolf, C., Woudstra, S., Aleman, A., Alhusaini, S., Almasy, L., Binder, E. B., Brohawn, D. G., Cantor, R. M., Carless, M. A., Corvin, A., Czisch, M., Curran, J. E., Davies, G., de Almeida, M. A. A., Delanty, N., Depondt, C., Duggirala, R., Dyer, T. D., Erk, S., Fagerness, J., Fox, P. T., Freimer, N. B., Gill, M., Göring, H. H. H., Hagler, D. J., Hoehn, D., Holsboer, F., Hoogman, M., Hosten, N., Jahanshad, N., Johnson, M. P., Kasperaviciute, D., Kent, J. W. J., Kochunov, P., Lancaster, J. L., Lawrie, S. M., Liewald, D. C., Mandl, R., Matarin, M., Mattheisen, M., Meisenzahl, E., Melle, I., Moses, E. K., Mühleisen, T. W., Nauck, M., Nöthen, M. M., Olvera, R. L., Pandolfo, M., Pike, G. B., Puls, R., Reinvang, I., Rentería, M. E., Rietschel, M., Roffman, J. L., Royle, N. A., Rujescu, D., Savitz, J., Schnack, H. G., Schnell, K., Seiferth, N., Smith, C., Hernández, M. C. V., Steen, V. M., den Heuvel, M. V., van der Wee, N. J., Haren, N. E. M. V., Veltman, J. A., Völzke, H., Walker, R., Westlye, L. T., Whelan, C. D., Agartz, I., Boomsma, D. I., Cavalleri, G. L., Dale, A. M., Djurovic, S., Drevets, W. C., Hagoort, P., Hall, J., Heinz, A., Clifford, R. J., Foroud, T. M., Le Hellard, S., Macciardi, F., Montgomery, G. W., Poline, J. B., Porteous, D. J., Sisodiya, S. M., Starr, J. M., Sussmann, J., Toga, A. W., Veltman, D. J., Walter, H., Weiner, M. W., EPIGEN Consortium, IMAGENConsortium, Saguenay Youth Study Group, Bis, J. C., Ikram, M. A., Smith, A. V., Gudnason, V., Tzourio, C., Vernooij, M. W., Launer, L. J., DeCarli, C., Seshadri, S., Heart, C. f., Consortium, A. R. i. G. E. (., Andreassen, O. A., Apostolova, L. G., Bastin, M. E., Blangero, J., Brunner, H. G., Buckner, R. L., Cichon, S., Coppola, G., de Zubicaray, G. I., Deary, I. J., Donohoe, G., de Geus, E. J. C., Espeseth, T., Fernández, G., Glahn, D. C., Grabe, H. J., Hardy, J., Hulshoff Pol, H. E., Jenkinson, M., Kahn, R. S., McDonald, C., McIntosh, A. M., McMahon, F. J., McMahon, K. L., Meyer-Lindenberg, A., Morris, D. W., Müller-Myhsok, B., Nichols, T. E., Ophoff, R. A., Paus, T., Pausova, Z., Penninx, B. W., Sämann, P. G., Saykin, A. J., Schumann, G., Smoller, J. W., Wardlaw, J. M., Weale, M. E., Martin, N. G., Franke, B., Wright, M. J., Thompson, P. M., & the Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis (ENIGMA) Consortium (2012). Identification of common variants associated with human hippocampal and intracranial volumes. Nature Genetics, 44, 552-561. doi:10.1038/ng.2250.

    Abstract

    Identifying genetic variants influencing human brain structures may reveal new biological mechanisms underlying cognition and neuropsychiatric illness. The volume of the hippocampus is a biomarker of incipient Alzheimer's disease and is reduced in schizophrenia, major depression and mesial temporal lobe epilepsy. Whereas many brain imaging phenotypes are highly heritable, identifying and replicating genetic influences has been difficult, as small effects and the high costs of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have led to underpowered studies. Here we report genome-wide association meta-analyses and replication for mean bilateral hippocampal, total brain and intracranial volumes from a large multinational consortium. The intergenic variant rs7294919 was associated with hippocampal volume (12q24.22; N = 21,151; P = 6.70 × 10(-16)) and the expression levels of the positional candidate gene TESC in brain tissue. Additionally, rs10784502, located within HMGA2, was associated with intracranial volume (12q14.3; N = 15,782; P = 1.12 × 10(-12)). We also identified a suggestive association with total brain volume at rs10494373 within DDR2 (1q23.3; N = 6,500; P = 5.81 × 10(-7)).
  • Udden, J., & Bahlmann, J. (2012). A rostro-caudal gradient of structured sequence processing in the left inferior frontal gyrus [Review article]. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 367, 2023-2032. doi:10.1098/rstb.2012.0009.

    Abstract

    In this paper, we present two novel perspectives on the function of the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG). First, a structured sequence processing perspective facilitates the search for functional segregation within the LIFG and provides a way to express common aspects across cognitive domains including language, music and action. Converging evidence from functional magnetic resonance imaging and transcranial magnetic stimulation studies suggests that the LIFG is engaged in sequential processing in artificial grammar learning, independently of particular stimulus features of the elements (whether letters, syllables or shapes are used to build up sequences). The LIFG has been repeatedly linked to processing of artificial grammars across all different grammars tested, whether they include non-adjacent dependencies or mere adjacent dependencies. Second, we apply the sequence processing perspective to understand how the functional segregation of semantics, syntax and phonology in the LIFG can be integrated in the general organization of the lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC). Recently, it was proposed that the functional organization of the lateral PFC follows a rostro-caudal gradient, such that more abstract processing in cognitive control is subserved by more rostral regions of the lateral PFC. We explore the literature from the viewpoint that functional segregation within the LIFG can be embedded in a general rostro-caudal abstraction gradient in the lateral PFC. If the lateral PFC follows a rostro-caudal abstraction gradient, then this predicts that the LIFG follows the same principles, but this prediction has not yet been tested or explored in the LIFG literature. Integration might provide further insights into the functional architecture of the LIFG and the lateral PFC.
  • Udden, J., Ingvar, M., Hagoort, P., & Petersson, K. M. (2012). Implicit acquisition of grammars with crossed and nested non-adjacent dependencies: Investigating the push-down stack model. Cognitive Science, 36, 1078-1101. doi:10.1111/j.1551-6709.2012.01235.x.

    Abstract

    A recent hypothesis in empirical brain research on language is that the fundamental difference between animal and human communication systems is captured by the distinction between finite-state and more complex phrase-structure grammars, such as context-free and context-sensitive grammars. However, the relevance of this distinction for the study of language as a neurobiological system has been questioned and it has been suggested that a more relevant and partly analogous distinction is that between non-adjacent and adjacent dependencies. Online memory resources are central to the processing of non-adjacent dependencies as information has to be maintained across intervening material. One proposal is that an external memory device in the form of a limited push-down stack is used to process non-adjacent dependencies. We tested this hypothesis in an artificial grammar learning paradigm where subjects acquired non-adjacent dependencies implicitly. Generally, we found no qualitative differences between the acquisition of non-adjacent dependencies and adjacent dependencies. This suggests that although the acquisition of non-adjacent dependencies requires more exposure to the acquisition material, it utilizes the same mechanisms used for acquiring adjacent dependencies. We challenge the push-down stack model further by testing its processing predictions for nested and crossed multiple non-adjacent dependencies. The push-down stack model is partly supported by the results, and we suggest that stack-like properties are some among many natural properties characterizing the underlying neurophysiological mechanisms that implement the online memory resources used in language and structured sequence processing.
  • Urrutia, M., de Vega, M., & Bastiaansen, M. C. M. (2012). Understanding counterfactuals in discourse modulates ERP and oscillatory gamma rhythms in the EEG. Brain Research, 1455, 40-55. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2012.03.032.

    Abstract

    This study provides ERP and oscillatory dynamics data associated with the comprehension of narratives involving counterfactual events. Participants were given short stories describing an initial situation (“Marta wanted to plant flowers in her garden…”), followed by a critical sentence describing a new situation in either a factual (“Since she found a spade, she started to dig a hole”) or counterfactual format (“If she had found a spade, she would have started to dig a hole”), and then a continuation sentence that was either related to the initial situation (“she bought a spade”) or to the new one (“she planted roses”). The ERPs recorded for the continuation sentences related to the initial situation showed larger negativity after factuals than after counterfactuals, suggesting that the counterfactual's presupposition – the events did not occur – prevents updating the here-and-now of discourse. By contrast, continuation sentences related to the new situation elicited similar ERPs under both factual and counterfactual contexts, suggesting that counterfactuals also activate momentarily an alternative “as if” meaning. However, the reduction of gamma power following counterfactuals, suggests that the “as if” meaning is not integrated into the discourse, nor does it contribute to semantic unification processes.
  • Van den Brink, D., Van Berkum, J. J. A., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., Tesink, C. M. J. Y., Kos, M., Buitelaar, J. K., & Hagoort, P. (2012). Empathy matters: ERP evidence for inter-individual differences in social language processing. Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 7, 173-182. doi:10.1093/scan/nsq094.

    Abstract

    When an adult claims he cannot sleep without his teddy bear, people tend to react surprised. Language interpretation is, thus, influenced by social context, such as who the speaker is. The present study reveals inter-individual differences in brain reactivity to social aspects of language. Whereas women showed brain reactivity when stereotype-based inferences about a speaker conflicted with the content of the message, men did not. This sex difference in social information processing can be explained by a specific cognitive trait, one’s ability to empathize. Individuals who empathize to a greater degree revealed larger N400 effects (as well as a larger increase in γ-band power) to socially relevant information. These results indicate that individuals with high-empathizing skills are able to rapidly integrate information about the speaker with the content of the message, as they make use of voice-based inferences about the speaker to process language in a top-down manner. Alternatively, individuals with lower empathizing skills did not use information about social stereotypes in implicit sentence comprehension, but rather took a more bottom-up approach to the processing of these social pragmatic sentences.
  • Van Ackeren, M. J., Casasanto, D., Bekkering, H., Hagoort, P., & Rueschemeyer, S.-A. (2012). Pragmatics in action: Indirect requests engage theory of mind areas and the cortical motor network. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 24, 2237-2247. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_00274.

    Abstract

    Research from the past decade has shown that understanding the meaning of words and utterances (i.e., abstracted symbols) engages the same systems we used to perceive and interact with the physical world in a content-specific manner. For example, understanding the word “grasp” elicits activation in the cortical motor network, that is, part of the neural substrate involved in planned and executing a grasping action. In the embodied literature, cortical motor activation during language comprehension is thought to reflect motor simulation underlying conceptual knowledge [note that outside the embodied framework, other explanations for the link between action and language are offered, e.g., Mahon, B. Z., & Caramazza, A. A critical look at the embodied cognition hypothesis and a new proposal for grouding conceptual content. Journal of Physiology, 102, 59–70, 2008; Hagoort, P. On Broca, brain, and binding: A new framework. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 9, 416–423, 2005]. Previous research has supported the view that the coupling between language and action is flexible, and reading an action-related word form is not sufficient for cortical motor activation [Van Dam, W. O., van Dijk, M., Bekkering, H., & Rueschemeyer, S.-A. Flexibility in embodied lexical–semantic representations. Human Brain Mapping, doi: 10.1002/hbm.21365, 2011]. The current study goes one step further by addressing the necessity of action-related word forms for motor activation during language comprehension. Subjects listened to indirect requests (IRs) for action during an fMRI session. IRs for action are speech acts in which access to an action concept is required, although it is not explicitly encoded in the language. For example, the utterance “It is hot here!” in a room with a window is likely to be interpreted as a request to open the window. However, the same utterance in a desert will be interpreted as a statement. The results indicate (1) that comprehension of IR sentences activates cortical motor areas reliably more than comprehension of sentences devoid of any implicit motor information. This is true despite the fact that IR sentences contain no lexical reference to action. (2) Comprehension of IR sentences also reliably activates substantial portions of the theory of mind network, known to be involved in making inferences about mental states of others. The implications of these findings for embodied theories of language are discussed.
  • Van Alphen, P. M., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2012). Semantic involvement of initial and final lexical embeddings during sense-making: The advantage of starting late. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 190. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00190.

    Abstract

    During spoken language interpretation, listeners rapidly relate the meaning of each individual word to what has been said before. However, spoken words often contain spurious other words, like 'day' in 'daisy', or 'dean' in 'sardine'. Do listeners also relate the meaning of such unintended, spurious words to the prior context? We used ERPs to look for transient meaning-based N400 effects in sentences that were completely plausible at the level of words intended by the speaker, but contained an embedded word whose meaning clashed with the context. Although carrier words with an initial embedding ('day' in 'daisy') did not elicit an embedding-related N400 effect relative to matched control words without embedding, carrier words with a final embedding ('dean' in 'sardine') did elicit such an effect. Together with prior work from our lab and the results of a Shortlist B simulation, our findings suggest that listeners do semantically interpret embedded words, albeit not under all conditions. We explain the latter by assuming that the sense-making system adjusts its hypothesis for how to interpret the external input at every new syllable, in line with recent ideas of active sampling in perception.
  • De Vries, M. H., Petersson, K. M., Geukes, S., Zwitserlood, P., & Christiansen, M. H. (2012). Processing multiple non-adjacent dependencies: Evidence from sequence learning. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, 367, 2065-2076. doi:10.1098/rstb.2011.0414.

    Abstract

    Processing non-adjacent dependencies is considered to be one of the hallmarks of human language. Assuming that sequence-learning tasks provide a useful way to tap natural-language-processing mechanisms, we cross-modally combined serial reaction time and artificial-grammar learning paradigms to investigate the processing of multiple nested (A1A2A3B3B2B1) and crossed dependencies (A1A2A3B1B2B3), containing either three or two dependencies. Both reaction times and prediction errors highlighted problems with processing the middle dependency in nested structures (A1A2A3B3_B1), reminiscent of the ‘missing-verb effect’ observed in English and French, but not with crossed structures (A1A2A3B1_B3). Prior linguistic experience did not play a major role: native speakers of German and Dutch—which permit nested and crossed dependencies, respectively—showed a similar pattern of results for sequences with three dependencies. As for sequences with two dependencies, reaction times and prediction errors were similar for both nested and crossed dependencies. The results suggest that constraints on the processing of multiple non-adjacent dependencies are determined by the specific ordering of the non-adjacent dependencies (i.e. nested or crossed), as well as the number of non-adjacent dependencies to be resolved (i.e. two or three). Furthermore, these constraints may not be specific to language but instead derive from limitations on structured sequence learning.
  • Wagensveld, B., Segers, E., Van Alphen, P. M., Hagoort, P., & Verhoeven, L. (2012). A neurocognitive perspective on rhyme awareness: The N450 rhyme effect. Brain Research, 1483, 63-70. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2012.09.018.

    Abstract

    Rhyme processing is reflected in the electrophysiological signals of the brain as a negative deflection for non-rhyming as compared to rhyming stimuli around 450 ms after stimulus onset. Studies have shown that this N450 component is not solely sensitive to rhyme but also responds to other types of phonological overlap. In the present study, we examined whether the N450 component can be used to gain insight into the global similarity effect, indicating that rhyme judgment skills decrease when participants are presented with word pairs that share a phonological overlap but do not rhyme (e.g., bell–ball). We presented 20 adults with auditory rhyming, globally similar overlapping and unrelated word pairs. In addition to measuring behavioral responses by means of a yes/no button press, we also took EEG measures. The behavioral data showed a clear global similarity effect; participants judged overlapping pairs more slowly than unrelated pairs. However, the neural outcomes did not provide evidence that the N450 effect responds differentially to globally similar and unrelated word pairs, suggesting that globally similar and dissimilar non-rhyming pairs are processed in a similar fashion at the stage of early lexical access.
  • Wagensveld, B., Van Alphen, P. M., Segers, E., & Verhoeven, L. (2012). The nature of rhyme processing in preliterate children. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 82, 672-689. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8279.2011.02055.x.

    Abstract

    Background. Rhyme awareness is one of the earliest forms of phonological awareness to develop and is assessed in many developmental studies by means of a simple rhyme task. The influence of more demanding experimental paradigms on rhyme judgment performance is often neglected. Addressing this issue may also shed light on whether rhyme processing is more global or analytical in nature. Aims. The aim of the present study was to examine whether lexical status and global similarity relations influenced rhyme judgments in kindergarten children and if so, if there is an interaction between these two factors. Sample. Participants were 41 monolingual Dutch-speaking preliterate kindergartners (average age 6.0 years) who had not yet received any formal reading education. Method. To examine the effects of lexical status and phonological similarity processing, the kindergartners were asked to make rhyme judgements on (pseudo) word targets that rhymed, phonologically overlapped or were unrelated to (pseudo) word primes. Results. Both a lexicality effect (pseudo-words were more difficult than words) and a global similarity effect (globally similar non-rhyming items were more difficult to reject than unrelated items) were observed. In addition, whereas in words the global similarity effect was only present in accuracy outcomes, in pseudo-words it was also observed in the response latencies. Furthermore, a large global similarity effect in pseudo-words correlated with a low score on short-term memory skills and grapheme knowledge. Conclusions. Increasing task demands led to a more detailed assessment of rhyme processing skills. Current assessment paradigms should therefore be extended with more demanding conditions. In light of the views on rhyme processing, we propose that a combination of global and analytical strategies is used to make a correct rhyme judgment.
  • Wang, L., Jensen, O., Van den Brink, D., Weder, N., Schoffelen, J.-M., Magyari, L., Hagoort, P., & Bastiaansen, M. C. M. (2012). Beta oscillations relate to the N400m during language comprehension. Human Brain Mapping, 33, 2898-2912. doi:10.1002/hbm.21410.

    Abstract

    The relationship between the evoked responses (ERPs/ERFs) and the event-related changes in EEG/MEG power that can be observed during sentence-level language comprehension is as yet unclear. This study addresses a possible relationship between MEG power changes and the N400m component of the event-related field. Whole-head MEG was recorded while subjects listened to spoken sentences with incongruent (IC) or congruent (C) sentence endings. A clear N400m was observed over the left hemisphere, and was larger for the IC sentences than for the C sentences. A time–frequency analysis of power revealed a decrease in alpha and beta power over the left hemisphere in roughly the same time range as the N400m for the IC relative to the C condition. A linear regression analysis revealed a positive linear relationship between N400m and beta power for the IC condition, not for the C condition. No such linear relation was found between N400m and alpha power for either condition. The sources of the beta decrease were estimated in the LIFG, a region known to be involved in semantic unification operations. One source of the N400m was estimated in the left superior temporal region, which has been related to lexical retrieval. We interpret our data within a framework in which beta oscillations are inversely related to the engagement of task-relevant brain networks. The source reconstructions of the beta power suppression and the N400m effect support the notion of a dynamic communication between the LIFG and the left superior temporal region during language comprehension.
  • Wang, L., Zhu, Z., & Bastiaansen, M. C. M. (2012). Integration or predictability? A further specification of the functional role of gamma oscillations in language comprehension. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 187. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00187.

    Abstract

    Gamma-band neuronal synchronization during sentence-level language comprehension has previously been linked with semantic unification. Here, we attempt to further narrow down the functional significance of gamma during language comprehension, by distinguishing between two aspects of semantic unification: successful integration of word meaning into the sentence context, and prediction of upcoming words. We computed event-related potentials (ERPs) and frequency band-specific electroencephalographic (EEG) power changes while participants read sentences that contained a critical word (CW) that was (1) both semantically congruent and predictable (high cloze, HC), (2) semantically congruent but unpredictable (low cloze, LC), or (3) semantically incongruent (and therefore also unpredictable; semantic violation, SV). The ERP analysis showed the expected parametric N400 modulation (HC < LC < SV). The time-frequency analysis showed qualitatively different results. In the gamma-frequency range, we observed a power increase in response to the CW in the HC condition, but not in the LC and the SV conditions. Additionally, in the theta frequency range we observed a power increase in the SV condition only. Our data provide evidence that gamma power increases are related to the predictability of an upcoming word based on the preceding sentence context, rather than to the integration of the incoming word’s semantics into the preceding context. Further, our theta band data are compatible with the notion that theta band synchronization in sentence comprehension might be related to the detection of an error in the language input.
  • Wang, L., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., Yang, Y., & Hagoort, P. (2012). Information structure influences depth of syntactic processing: Event-related potential evidence for the Chomsky illusion. PLoS One, 7(10), e47917. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047917.

    Abstract

    Information structure facilitates communication between interlocutors by highlighting relevant information. It has previously been shown that information structure modulates the depth of semantic processing. Here we used event-related potentials to investigate whether information structure can modulate the depth of syntactic processing. In question-answer pairs, subtle (number agreement) or salient (phrase structure) syntactic violations were placed either in focus or out of focus through information structure marking. P600 effects to these violations reflect the depth of syntactic processing. For subtle violations, a P600 effect was observed in the focus condition, but not in the non-focus condition. For salient violations, comparable P600 effects were found in both conditions. These results indicate that information structure can modulate the depth of syntactic processing, but that this effect depends on the salience of the information. When subtle violations are not in focus, they are processed less elaborately. We label this phenomenon the Chomsky illusion.
  • Willems, R. M., & Francken, J. C. (2012). Embodied cognition: Taking the next step. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 582. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00582.

    Abstract

    Recent years have seen a large amount of empirical studies related to ‘embodied cognition’. While interesting and valuable, there is something dissatisfying with the current state of affairs in this research domain. Hypotheses tend to be underspecified, testing in general terms for embodied versus disembodied processing. The lack of specificity of current hypotheses can easily lead to an erosion of the embodiment concept, and result in a situation in which essentially any effect is taken as positive evidence. Such erosion is not helpful to the field and does not do justice to the importance of embodiment. Here we want to take stock, and formulate directions for how it can be studied in a more fruitful fashion. As an example we will describe few example studies that have investigated the role of sensori-motor systems in the coding of meaning (‘embodied semantics’). Instead of focusing on the dichotomy between embodied and disembodied theories, we suggest that the field move forward and ask how and when sensori-motor systems and behavior are involved in cognition.
  • Xiang, H., Dediu, D., Roberts, L., Van Oort, E., Norris, D., & Hagoort, P. (2012). The structural connectivity underpinning language aptitude, working memory and IQ in the perisylvian language network. Language Learning, 62(Supplement S2), 110-130. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9922.2012.00708.x.

    Abstract

    We carried out the first study on the relationship between individual language aptitude and structural connectivity of language pathways in the adult brain. We measured four components of language aptitude (vocabulary learning, VocL; sound recognition, SndRec; sound-symbol correspondence, SndSym; and grammatical inferencing, GrInf) using the LLAMA language aptitude test (Meara, 2005). Spatial working memory (SWM), verbal working memory (VWM) and IQ were also measured as control factors. Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) was employed to investigate the structural connectivity of language pathways in the perisylvian language network. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) on behavioural measures suggests that a general ability might be important to the first stages of L2 acquisition. It also suggested that VocL, SndSy and SWM are more closely related to general IQ than SndRec and VocL, and distinguished the tasks specifically designed to tap into L2 acquisition (VocL, SndRec,SndSym and GrInf) from more generic measures (IQ, SWM and VWM). Regression analysis suggested significant correlations between most of these behavioural measures and the structural connectivity of certain language pathways, i.e., VocL and BA47-Parietal pathway, SndSym and inter-hemispheric BA45 pathway, GrInf and BA45-Temporal pathway and BA6-Temporal pathway, IQ and BA44-Parietal pathway, BA47-Parietal pathway, BA47-Temporal pathway and inter-hemispheric BA45 pathway, SWM and inter-hemispheric BA6 pathway and BA47-Parietal pathway, and VWM and BA47-Temporal pathway. These results are discussed in relation to relevant findings in the literature.
  • Zhu, Z., Hagoort, P., Zhang, J. X., Feng, G., Chen, H.-C., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., & Wang, S. (2012). The anterior left inferior frontal gyrus contributes to semantic unification. NeuroImage, 60, 2230-2237. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.02.036.

    Abstract

    Semantic unification, the process by which small blocks of semantic information are combined into a coherent utterance, has been studied with various types of tasks. However, whether the brain activations reported in these studies are attributed to semantic unification per se or to other task-induced concomitant processes still remains unclear. The neural basis for semantic unification in sentence comprehension was examined using event-related potentials (ERP) and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). The semantic unification load was manipulated by varying the goodness of fit between a critical word and its preceding context (in high cloze, low cloze and violation sentences). The sentences were presented in a serial visual presentation mode. The participants were asked to perform one of three tasks: semantic congruency judgment (SEM), silent reading for comprehension (READ), or font size judgment (FONT), in separate sessions. The ERP results showed a similar N400 amplitude modulation by the semantic unification load across all of the three tasks. The brain activations associated with the semantic unification load were found in the anterior left inferior frontal gyrus (aLIFG) in the FONT task and in a widespread set of regions in the other two tasks. These results suggest that the aLIFG activation reflects a semantic unification, which is different from other brain activations that may reflect task-specific strategic processing.

    Additional information

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  • Zwitserlood, I., Perniss, P. M., & Ozyurek, A. (2012). An empirical investigation of expression of multiple entities in Turkish Sign Language (TİD): Considering the effects of modality. Lingua, 122, 1636 -1667. doi:10.1016/j.lingua.2012.08.010.

    Abstract

    This paper explores the expression of multiple entities in Turkish Sign Language (Türk İşaret Dili; TİD), a less well-studied sign language. It aims to provide a comprehensive description of the ways and frequencies in which entity plurality in this language is expressed, both within and outside the noun phrase. We used a corpus that includes both elicited and spontaneous data from native signers. The results reveal that most of the expressions of multiple entities in TİD are iconic, spatial strategies (i.e. localization and spatial plural predicate inflection) none of which, we argue, should be considered as genuine plural marking devices with the main aim of expressing plurality. Instead, the observed devices for localization and predicate inflection allow for a plural interpretation when multiple locations in space are used. Our data do not provide evidence that TİD employs (productive) morphological plural marking (i.e. reduplication) on nouns, in contrast to some other sign languages and many spoken languages. We relate our findings to expression of multiple entities in other signed languages and in spoken languages and discuss these findings in terms of modality effects on expression of multiple entities in human language.
  • Allen, S., Ozyurek, A., Kita, S., Brown, A., Furman, R., Ishizuka, T., & Fujii, M. (2007). Language-specific and universal influences in children's syntactic packaging of manner and path: A comparison of English, Japanese, and Turkish. Cognition, 102, 16-48. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2005.12.006.

    Abstract

    Different languages map semantic elements of spatial relations onto different lexical and syntactic units. These crosslinguistic differences raise important questions for language development in terms of how this variation is learned by children. We investigated how Turkish-, English-, and Japanese-speaking children (mean age 3;8) package the semantic elements of Manner and Path onto syntactic units when both the Manner and the Path of the moving Figure occur simultaneously and are salient in the event depicted. Both universal and language-specific patterns were evident in our data. Children used the semantic-syntactic mappings preferred by adult speakers of their own languages, and even expressed subtle syntactic differences that encode different relations between Manner and Path in the same way as their adult counterparts (i.e., Manner causing vs. incidental to Path). However, not all types of semantics-syntax mappings were easy for children to learn (e.g., expressing Manner and Path elements in two verbal clauses). In such cases, Turkish- and Japanese-speaking children frequently used syntactic patterns that were not typical in the target language but were similar to patterns used by English-speaking children, suggesting some universal influence. Thus, both language-specific and universal tendencies guide the development of complex spatial expressions.
  • Bramão, I., Mendonça, A., Faísca, L., Ingvar, M., Petersson, K. M., & Reis, A. (2007). The impact of reading and writing skills on a visuo-motor integration task: A comparison between illiterate and literate subjects. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 13(2), 359-364. doi:10.1017/S1355617707070440.

    Abstract

    Previous studies have shown a significant association between reading skills and the performance on visuo-motor tasks. In order to clarify whether reading and writing skills modulate non-linguistic domains, we investigated the performance of two literacy groups on a visuo-motor integration task with non-linguistic stimuli. Twenty-one illiterate participants and twenty matched literate controls were included in the experiment. Subjects were instructed to use the right or the left index finger to point to and touch a randomly presented target on the right or left side of a touch screen. The results showed that the literate subjects were significantly faster in detecting and touching targets on the left compared to the right side of the screen. In contrast, the presentation side did not affect the performance of the illiterate group. These results lend support to the idea that having acquired reading and writing skills, and thus a preferred left-to-right reading direction, influences visual scanning. (JINS, 2007, 13, 359–364
  • Furman, R., & Ozyurek, A. (2007). Development of interactional discourse markers: Insights from Turkish children's and adults' narratives. Journal of Pragmatics, 39(10), 1742-1757. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2007.01.008.

    Abstract

    Discourse markers (DMs) are linguistic elements that index different relations and coherence between units of talk (Schiffrin, Deborah, 1987. Discourse Markers. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge). Most research on the development of these forms has focused on conversations rather than narratives and furthermore has not directly compared children's use of DMs to adult usage. This study examines the development of three DMs (şey ‘uuhh’, yani ‘I mean’, işte ‘y’know’) that mark interactional levels of discourse in oral Turkish narratives in 60 Turkish children (3-, 5- and 9-year-olds) and 20 Turkish-speaking adults. The results show that the frequency and functions of DMs change with age. Children learn şey, which mainly marks exchange level structures, earliest. However, yani and işte have multi-functions such as marking both information states and participation frameworks and are consequently learned later. Children also use DMs with different functions than adults. Overall, the results show that learning to use interactional DMs in narratives is complex and goes beyond age 9, especially for multi-functional DMs that index an interplay of discourse coherence at different levels.
  • Gisselgard, J., Uddén, J., Ingvar, M., & Petersson, K. M. (2007). Disruption of order information by irrelevant items: A serial recognition paradigm. Acta Psychologica, 124(3), 356-369. doi:10.1016/j.actpsy.2006.04.002.

    Abstract

    Irrelevant speech effect (ISE) is defined as a decrement in visually presented digit-list short-term memory performance due to exposure to irrelevant auditory material. Perhaps the most successful theoretical explanation of the effect is the changing state hypothesis. This hypothesis explains the effect in terms of confusion between amodal serial order cues, and represents a view based on the interference caused by the processing of similar order information of the visual and auditory materials. An alternative view suggests that the interference occurs as a consequence of the similarity between the visual and auditory contents of the stimuli. An important argument for the former view is the observation that ISE is almost exclusively observed in tasks that require memory for serial order. However, most short-term memory tasks require that both item and order information be retained in memory. An ideal task to investigate the sensitivity of maintenance of serial order to irrelevant speech would be one that calls upon order information but not item information. One task that is particularly suited to address this issue is serial recognition. In a typical serial recognition task, a list of items is presented and then probed by the same list in which the order of two adjacent items has been transposed. Due to the re-presentation of the encoding string, serial recognition requires primarily the serial order to be maintained while the content of the presented items is deemphasized. In demonstrating a highly significant ISE of changing versus steady-state auditory items in a serial recognition task, the present finding lends support for and extends previous empirical findings suggesting that irrelevant speech has the potential to interfere with the coding of the order of the items to be memorized.
  • Hagoort, P., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2007). Beyond the sentence given. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. Series B: Biological Sciences, 362, 801-811.

    Abstract

    A central and influential idea among researchers of language is that our language faculty is organized according to Fregean compositionality, which states that the meaning of an utterance is a function of the meaning of its parts and of the syntactic rules by which these parts are combined. Since the domain of syntactic rules is the sentence, the implication of this idea is that language interpretation takes place in a two-step fashion. First, the meaning of a sentence is computed. In a second step, the sentence meaning is integrated with information from prior discourse, world knowledge, information about the speaker and semantic information from extra-linguistic domains such as co-speech gestures or the visual world. Here, we present results from recordings of event-related brain potentials that are inconsistent with this classical two-step model of language interpretation. Our data support a one-step model in which knowledge about the context and the world, concomitant information from other modalities, and the speaker are brought to bear immediately, by the same fast-acting brain system that combines the meanings of individual words into a message-level representation. Underlying the one-step model is the immediacy assumption, according to which all available information will immediately be used to co-determine the interpretation of the speaker's message. Functional magnetic resonance imaging data that we collected indicate that Broca's area plays an important role in semantic unification. Language comprehension involves the rapid incorporation of information in a 'single unification space', coming from a broader range of cognitive domains than presupposed in the standard two-step model of interpretation.
  • Hald, L. A., Steenbeek-Planting, E. G., & Hagoort, P. (2007). The interaction of discourse context and world knowledge in online sentence comprehension: Evidence from the N400. Brain Research, 1146, 210-218. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2007.02.054.

    Abstract

    In an ERP experiment we investigated how the recruitment and integration of world knowledge information relate to the integration of information within a current discourse context. Participants were presented with short discourse contexts which were followed by a sentence that contained a critical word that was correct or incorrect based on general world knowledge and the supporting discourse context, or was more or less acceptable based on the combination of general world knowledge and the specific local discourse context. Relative to the critical word in the correct world knowledge sentences following a neutral discourse, all other critical words elicited an N400 effect that began at about 300 ms after word onset. However, the magnitude of the N400 effect varied in a way that suggests an interaction between world knowledge and discourse context. The results indicate that both world knowledge and discourse context have an effect on sentence interpretation, but neither overrides the other.
  • Janzen, G., Wagensveld, B., & Van Turennout, M. (2007). Neural representation of navigational relevance is rapidly induced and long lasting. Cerebral Cortex, 17(4), 975-981. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhl008.

    Abstract

    Successful navigation is facilitated by the presence of landmarks. Previous functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) evidence indicated that the human parahippocampal gyrus automatically distinguishes between landmarks placed at navigationally relevant (decision points) and irrelevant locations (nondecision points). This storage of navigational relevance can provide a neural mechanism underlying successful navigation. However, an efficient wayfinding mechanism requires that important spatial information is learned quickly and maintained over time. The present study investigates whether the representation of navigational relevance is modulated by time and practice. Participants learned 2 film sequences through virtual mazes containing objects at decision and at nondecision points. One maze was shown one time, and the other maze was shown 3 times. Twenty-four hours after study, event-related fMRI data were acquired during recognition of the objects. The results showed that activity in the parahippocampal gyrus was increased for objects previously placed at decision points as compared with objects placed at nondecision points. The decision point effect was not modulated by the number of exposures to the mazes and independent of explicit memory functions. These findings suggest a persistent representation of navigationally relevant information, which is stable after only one exposure to an environment. These rapidly induced and long-lasting changes in object representation provide a basis for successful wayfinding.
  • Janzen, G., & Weststeijn, C. G. (2007). Neural representation of object location and route direction: An event-related fMRI study. Brain Research, 1165, 116-125. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2007.05.074.

    Abstract

    The human brain distinguishes between landmarks placed at navigationally relevant and irrelevant locations. However, to provide a successful wayfinding mechanism not only landmarks but also the routes between them need to be stored. We examined the neural representation of a memory for route direction and a memory for relevant landmarks. Healthy human adults viewed objects along a route through a virtual maze. Event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data were acquired during a subsequent subliminal priming recognition task. Prime-objects either preceded or succeeded a target-object on a preciously learned route. Our results provide evidence that the parahippocampal gyri distinguish between relevant and irrelevant landmarks whereas the inferior parietal gyrus, the anterior cingulate gyrus as well as the right caudate nucleus are involved in the coding of route direction. These data show that separated memory systems store different spatial information. A memory for navigationally relevant object information and a memory for route direction exist.
  • Kita, S., Ozyurek, A., Allen, S., Brown, A., Furman, R., & Ishizuka, T. (2007). Relations between syntactic encoding and co-speech gestures: Implications for a model of speech and gesture production. Language and Cognitive Processes, 22(8), 1212-1236. doi:10.1080/01690960701461426.

    Abstract

    Gestures that accompany speech are known to be tightly coupled with speech production. However little is known about the cognitive processes that underlie this link. Previous cross-linguistic research has provided preliminary evidence for online interaction between the two systems based on the systematic co-variation found between how different languages syntactically package Manner and Path information of a motion event and how gestures represent Manner and Path. Here we elaborate on this finding by testing whether speakers within the same language gesturally express Manner and Path differently according to their online choice of syntactic packaging of Manner and Path, or whether gestural expression is pre-determined by a habitual conceptual schema congruent with the linguistic typology. Typologically congruent and incongruent syntactic structures for expressing Manner and Path (i.e., in a single clause or multiple clauses) were elicited from English speakers. We found that gestural expressions were determined by the online choice of syntactic packaging rather than by a habitual conceptual schema. It is therefore concluded that speech and gesture production processes interface online at the conceptual planning phase. Implications of the findings for models of speech and gesture production are discussed
  • Marklund, P., Fransson, P., Cabeza, R., Petersson, K. M., Ingvar, M., & Nyberg, L. (2007). Sustained and transient neural modulations in prefrontal cortex related to declarative long-term memory, working memory, and attention. Cortex, 43(1), 22-37. doi:10.1016/S0010-9452(08)70443-X.

    Abstract

    Common activations in prefrontal cortex (PFC) during episodic and semantic long-term memory (LTM) tasks have been hypothesized to reflect functional overlap in terms of working memory (WM) and cognitive control. To evaluate a WM account of LTM-general activations, the present study took into consideration that cognitive task performance depends on the dynamic operation of multiple component processes, some of which are stimulus-synchronous and transient in nature; and some that are engaged throughout a task in a sustained fashion. PFC and WM may be implicated in both of these temporally independent components. To elucidate these possibilities we employed mixed blocked/event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) procedures to assess the extent to which sustained or transient activation patterns overlapped across tasks indexing episodic and semantic LTM, attention (ATT), and WM. Within PFC, ventrolateral and medial areas exhibited sustained activity across all tasks, whereas more anterior regions including right frontopolar cortex were commonly engaged in sustained processing during the three memory tasks. These findings do not support a WM account of sustained frontal responses during LTM tasks, but instead suggest that the pattern that was common to all tasks reflects general attentional set/vigilance, and that the shared WM-LTM pattern mediates control processes related to upholding task set. Transient responses during the three memory tasks were assessed relative to ATT to isolate item-specific mnemonic processes and were found to be largely distinct from sustained effects. Task-specific effects were observed for each memory task. In addition, a common item response for all memory tasks involved left dorsolateral PFC (DLPFC). The latter response might be seen as reflecting WM processes during LTM retrieval. Thus, our findings suggest that a WM account of shared PFC recruitment in LTM tasks holds for common transient item-related responses rather than sustained state-related responses that are better seen as reflecting more general attentional/control processes.
  • Menenti, L., & Burani, C. (2007). What causes the effect of age of acquisition in lexical processing? Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 60(5), 652-660. doi:10.1080/17470210601100126.

    Abstract

    Three hypotheses for effects of age of acquisition (AoA) in lexical processing are compared: the cumulative frequency hypothesis (frequency and AoA both influence the number of encounters with a word, which influences processing speed), the semantic hypothesis (early-acquired words are processed faster because they are more central in the semantic network), and the neural network model (early-acquired words are faster because they are acquired when a network has maximum plasticity). In a regression study of lexical decision (LD) and semantic categorization (SC) in Italian and Dutch, contrary to the cumulative frequency hypothesis, AoA coefficients were larger than frequency coefficients, and, contrary to the semantic hypothesis, the effect of AoA was not larger in SC than in LD. The neural network model was supported.
  • Nieuwland, M. S., Petersson, K. M., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2007). On sense and reference: Examining the functional neuroanatomy of referential processing. NeuroImage, 37(3), 993-1004. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.05.048.

    Abstract

    In an event-related fMRI study, we examined the cortical networks involved in establishing reference during language comprehension. We compared BOLD responses to sentences containing referentially ambiguous pronouns (e.g., “Ronald told Frank that he…”), referentially failing pronouns (e.g., “Rose told Emily that he…”) or coherent pronouns. Referential ambiguity selectively recruited medial prefrontal regions, suggesting that readers engaged in problem-solving to select a unique referent from the discourse model. Referential failure elicited activation increases in brain regions associated with morpho-syntactic processing, and, for those readers who took failing pronouns to refer to unmentioned entities, additional regions associated with elaborative inferencing were observed. The networks activated by these two referential problems did not overlap with the network activated by a standard semantic anomaly. Instead, we observed a double dissociation, in that the systems activated by semantic anomaly are deactivated by referential ambiguity, and vice versa. This inverse coupling may reflect the dynamic recruitment of semantic and episodic processing to resolve semantically or referentially problematic situations. More generally, our findings suggest that neurocognitive accounts of language comprehension need to address not just how we parse a sentence and combine individual word meanings, but also how we determine who's who and what's what during language comprehension.
  • Nieuwland, M. S., Otten, M., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2007). Who are you talking about? Tracking discourse-level referential processing with event-related brain potentials. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 19(2), 228-236. doi:10.1162/jocn.2007.19.2.228.

    Abstract

    In this event-related brain potentials (ERPs) study, we explored the possibility to selectively track referential ambiguity during spoken discourse comprehension. Earlier ERP research has shown that referentially ambiguous nouns (e.g., “the girl” in a two-girl context) elicit a frontal, sustained negative shift relative to unambiguous control words. In the current study, we examined whether this ERP effect reflects “deep” situation model ambiguity or “superficial” textbase ambiguity. We contrasted these different interpretations by investigating whether a discourse-level semantic manipulation that prevents referential ambiguity also averts the elicitation of a referentially induced ERP effect. We compared ERPs elicited by nouns that were referentially nonambiguous but were associated with two discourse entities (e.g., “the girl” with two girls introduced in the context, but one of which has died or left the scene), with referentially ambiguous and nonambiguous control words. Although temporally referentially ambiguous nouns elicited a frontal negative shift compared to control words, the “double bound” but referentially nonambiguous nouns did not. These results suggest that it is possible to selectively track referential ambiguity with ERPs at the level that is most relevant to discourse comprehension, the situation model.
  • Otten, M., Nieuwland, M. S., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2007). Great expectations: Specific lexical anticipation influences the processing of spoken language. BMC Neuroscience, 8: 89. doi:10.1186/1471-2202-8-89.

    Abstract

    Background Recently several studies have shown that people use contextual information to make predictions about the rest of the sentence or story as the text unfolds. Using event related potentials (ERPs) we tested whether these on-line predictions are based on a message-based representation of the discourse or on simple automatic activation by individual words. Subjects heard short stories that were highly constraining for one specific noun, or stories that were not specifically predictive but contained the same prime words as the predictive stories. To test whether listeners make specific predictions critical nouns were preceded by an adjective that was inflected according to, or in contrast with, the gender of the expected noun. Results When the message of the preceding discourse was predictive, adjectives with an unexpected gender-inflection evoked a negative deflection over right-frontal electrodes between 300 and 600 ms. This effect was not present in the prime control context, indicating that the prediction mismatch does not hinge on word-based priming but is based on the actual message of the discourse. Conclusions When listening to a constraining discourse people rapidly make very specific predictions about the remainder of the story, as the story unfolds. These predictions are not simply based on word-based automatic activation, but take into account the actual message of the discourse.
  • Otten, M., & Van Berkum, J. J. A. (2007). What makes a discourse constraining? Comparing the effects of discourse message and scenario fit on the discourse-dependent N400 effect. Brain Research, 1153, 166-177. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2007.03.058.

    Abstract

    A discourse context provides a reader with a great deal of information that can provide constraints for further language processing, at several different levels. In this experiment we used event-related potentials (ERPs) to explore whether discourse-generated contextual constraints are based on the precise message of the discourse or, more `loosely', on the scenario suggested by one or more content words in the text. Participants read constraining stories whose precise message rendered a particular word highly predictable ("The manager thought that the board of directors should assemble to discuss the issue. He planned a...[meeting]") as well as non-constraining control stories that were only biasing in virtue of the scenario suggested by some of the words ("The manager thought that the board of directors need not assemble to discuss the issue. He planned a..."). Coherent words that were inconsistent with the message-level expectation raised in a constraining discourse (e.g., "session" instead of "meeting") elicited a classic centroparietal N400 effect. However, when the same words were only inconsistent with the scenario loosely suggested by earlier words in the text, they elicited a different negativity around 400 ms, with a more anterior, left-lateralized maximum. The fact that the discourse-dependent N400 effect cannot be reduced to scenario-mediated priming reveals that it reflects the rapid use of precise message-level constraints in comprehension. At the same time, the left-lateralized negativity in non-constraining stories suggests that, at least in the absence of strong message-level constraints, scenario-mediated priming does also rapidly affect comprehension.
  • Ozyurek, A., & Kelly, S. D. (2007). Gesture, language, and brain. Brain and Language, 101(3), 181-185. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2007.03.006.
  • Ozyurek, A., Willems, R. M., Kita, S., & Hagoort, P. (2007). On-line integration of semantic information from speech and gesture: Insights from event-related brain potentials. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 19(4), 605-616. doi:10.1162/jocn.2007.19.4.605.

    Abstract

    During language comprehension, listeners use the global semantic representation from previous sentence or discourse context to immediately integrate the meaning of each upcoming word into the unfolding message-level representation. Here we investigate whether communicative gestures that often spontaneously co-occur with speech are processed in a similar fashion and integrated to previous sentence context in the same way as lexical meaning. Event-related potentials were measured while subjects listened to spoken sentences with a critical verb (e.g., knock), which was accompanied by an iconic co-speech gesture (i.e., KNOCK). Verbal and/or gestural semantic content matched or mismatched the content of the preceding part of the sentence. Despite the difference in the modality and in the specificity of meaning conveyed by spoken words and gestures, the latency, amplitude, and topographical distribution of both word and gesture mismatches are found to be similar, indicating that the brain integrates both types of information simultaneously. This provides evidence for the claim that neural processing in language comprehension involves the simultaneous incorporation of information coming from a broader domain of cognition than only verbal semantics. The neural evidence for similar integration of information from speech and gesture emphasizes the tight interconnection between speech and co-speech gestures.
  • Petersson, K. M., Silva, C., Castro-Caldas, A., Ingvar, M., & Reis, A. (2007). Literacy: A cultural influence on functional left-right differences in the inferior parietal cortex. European Journal of Neuroscience, 26(3), 791-799. doi:10.1111/j.1460-9568.2007.05701.x.

    Abstract

    The current understanding of hemispheric interaction is limited. Functional hemispheric specialization is likely to depend on both genetic and environmental factors. In the present study we investigated the importance of one factor, literacy, for the functional lateralization in the inferior parietal cortex in two independent samples of literate and illiterate subjects. The results show that the illiterate group are consistently more right-lateralized than their literate controls. In contrast, the two groups showed a similar degree of left-right differences in early speech-related regions of the superior temporal cortex. These results provide evidence suggesting that a cultural factor, literacy, influences the functional hemispheric balance in reading and verbal working memory-related regions. In a third sample, we investigated grey and white matter with voxel-based morphometry. The results showed differences between literacy groups in white matter intensities related to the mid-body region of the corpus callosum and the inferior parietal and parietotemporal regions (literate > illiterate). There were no corresponding differences in the grey matter. This suggests that the influence of literacy on brain structure related to reading and verbal working memory is affecting large-scale brain connectivity more than grey matter per se.
  • Qin, S., Piekema, C., Petersson, K. M., Han, B., Luo, J., & Fernández, G. (2007). Probing the transformation of discontinuous associations into episodic memory: An event-related fMRI study. NeuroImage, 38(1), 212-222. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2007.07.020.

    Abstract

    Using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging, we identified brain regions involved in storing associations of events discontinuous in time into long-term memory. Participants were scanned while memorizing item-triplets including simultaneous and discontinuous associations. Subsequent memory tests showed that participants remembered both types of associations equally well. First, by constructing the contrast between the subsequent memory effects for discontinuous associations and simultaneous associations, we identified the left posterior parahippocampal region, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the basal ganglia, posterior midline structures, and the middle temporal gyrus as being specifically involved in transforming discontinuous associations into episodic memory. Second, we replicated that the prefrontal cortex and the medial temporal lobe (MTL) especially the hippocampus are involved in associative memory formation in general. Our findings provide evidence for distinct neural operation(s) that supports the binding and storing discontinuous associations in memory. We suggest that top-down signals from the prefrontal cortex and MTL may trigger reactivation of internal representation in posterior midline structures of the first event, thus allowing it to be associated with the second event. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex together with basal ganglia may support this encoding operation by executive and binding processes within working memory, and the posterior parahippocampal region may play a role in binding and memory formation.
  • Reis, A., Faísca, L., Mendonça, S., Ingvar, M., & Petersson, K. M. (2007). Semantic interference on a phonological task in illiterate subjects. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 48(1), 69-74. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9450.2006.00544.x.

    Abstract

    Previous research suggests that learning an alphabetic written language influences aspects of the auditory-verbal language system. In this study, we examined whether literacy influences the notion of words as phonological units independent of lexical semantics in literate and illiterate subjects. Subjects had to decide which item in a word- or pseudoword pair was phonologically longest. By manipulating the relationship between referent size and phonological length in three word conditions (congruent, neutral, and incongruent) we could examine to what extent subjects focused on form rather than meaning of the stimulus material. Moreover, the pseudoword condition allowed us to examine global phonological awareness independent of lexical semantics. The results showed that literate performed significantly better than illiterate subjects in the neutral and incongruent word conditions as well as in the pseudoword condition. The illiterate group performed least well in the incongruent condition and significantly better in the pseudoword condition compared to the neutral and incongruent word conditions and suggest that performance on phonological word length comparisons is dependent on literacy. In addition, the results show that the illiterate participants are able to perceive and process phonological length, albeit less well than the literate subjects, when no semantic interference is present. In conclusion, the present results confirm and extend the finding that illiterate subjects are biased towards semantic-conceptual-pragmatic types of cognitive processing.
  • Snijders, T. M., Kooijman, V., Cutler, A., & Hagoort, P. (2007). Neurophysiological evidence of delayed segmentation in a foreign language. Brain Research, 1178, 106-113. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2007.07.080.

    Abstract

    Previous studies have shown that segmentation skills are language-specific, making it difficult to segment continuous speech in an unfamiliar language into its component words. Here we present the first study capturing the delay in segmentation and recognition in the foreign listener using ERPs. We compared the ability of Dutch adults and of English adults without knowledge of Dutch (‘foreign listeners’) to segment familiarized words from continuous Dutch speech. We used the known effect of repetition on the event-related potential (ERP) as an index of recognition of words in continuous speech. Our results show that word repetitions in isolation are recognized with equivalent facility by native and foreign listeners, but word repetitions in continuous speech are not. First, words familiarized in isolation are recognized faster by native than by foreign listeners when they are repeated in continuous speech. Second, when words that have previously been heard only in a continuous-speech context re-occur in continuous speech, the repetition is detected by native listeners, but is not detected by foreign listeners. A preceding speech context facilitates word recognition for native listeners, but delays or even inhibits word recognition for foreign listeners. We propose that the apparent difference in segmentation rate between native and foreign listeners is grounded in the difference in language-specific skills available to the listeners.
  • Takashima, A., Nieuwenhuis, I. L. C., Rijpkema, M., Petersson, K. M., Jensen, O., & Fernández, G. (2007). Memory trace stabilization leads to large-scale changes in the retrieval network: A functional MRI study on associative memory. Learning & Memory, 14, 472-479. doi:10.1101/lm.605607.

    Abstract

    Spaced learning with time to consolidate leads to more stabile memory traces. However, little is known about the neural correlates of trace stabilization, especially in humans. The present fMRI study contrasted retrieval activity of two well-learned sets of face-location associations, one learned in a massed style and tested on the day of learning (i.e., labile condition) and another learned in a spaced scheme over the course of one week (i.e., stabilized condition). Both sets of associations were retrieved equally well, but the retrieval of stabilized association was faster and accompanied by large-scale changes in the network supporting retrieval. Cued recall of stabilized as compared with labile associations was accompanied by increased activity in the precuneus, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the bilateral temporal pole, and left temporo–parietal junction. Conversely, memory representational areas such as the fusiform gyrus for faces and the posterior parietal cortex for locations did not change their activity with stabilization. The changes in activation in the precuneus, which also showed increased connectivity with the fusiform area, are likely to be related to the spatial nature of our task. The activation increase in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, on the other hand, might reflect a general function in stabilized memory retrieval. This area might succeed the hippocampus in linking distributed neocortical representations.
  • Tendolkar, I., Arnold, J., Petersson, K. M., Weis, S., Brockhaus-Dumke, A., Van Eijndhoven, P., Buitelaar, J., & Fernández, G. (2007). Probing the neural correlates of associative memory formation: A parametrically analyzed event-related functional MRI study. Brain Research, 1142, 159-168. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2007.01.040.

    Abstract

    The medial temporal lobe (MTL) is crucial for declarative memory formation, but the function of its subcomponents in associative memory formation remains controversial. Most functional imaging studies on this topic are based on a stepwise approach comparing a condition with and one without associative encoding. Extending this approach we applied additionally a parametric analysis by varying the amount of associative memory formation. We found a hippocampal subsequent memory effect of almost similar magnitude regardless of the amount of associations formed. By contrast, subsequent memory effects in rhinal and parahippocampal cortices were parametrically and positively modulated by the amount of associations formed. Our results indicate that the parahippocampal region supports associative memory formation as tested here and the hippocampus adds a general mnemonic operation. This pattern of results might suggest a new interpretation. Instead of having either a fixed division of labor between the hippocampus (associative memory formation) and the rhinal cortex (non-associative memory formation) or a functionally unitary MTL system, in which all substructures are contributing to memory formation in a similar way, we propose that the location where associations are formed within the MTL depends on the kind of associations bound: If visual single-dimension associations, as used here, can already be integrated within the parahippocampal region, the hippocampus might add a general purpose mnemonic operation only. In contrast, if associations have to be formed across widely distributed neocortical representations, the hippocampus may provide a binding operation in order to establish a coherent memory.
  • Van Berkum, J. J. A., Koornneef, A. W., Otten, M., & Nieuwland, M. S. (2007). Establishing reference in language comprehension: An electrophysiological perspective. Brain Research, 1146, 158-171. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2006.06.091.

    Abstract

    The electrophysiology of language comprehension has long been dominated by research on syntactic and semantic integration. However, to understand expressions like "he did it" or "the little girl", combining word meanings in accordance with semantic and syntactic constraints is not enough--readers and listeners also need to work out what or who is being referred to. We review our event-related brain potential research on the processes involved in establishing reference, and present a new experiment in which we examine when and how the implicit causality associated with specific interpersonal verbs affects the interpretation of a referentially ambiguous pronoun. The evidence suggests that upon encountering a singular noun or pronoun, readers and listeners immediately inspect their situation model for a suitable discourse entity, such that they can discriminate between having too many, too few, or exactly the right number of referents within at most half a second. Furthermore, our implicit causality findings indicate that a fragment like "David praised Linda because..." can immediately foreground a particular referent, to the extent that a subsequent "he" is at least initially construed as a syntactic error. In all, our brain potential findings suggest that referential processing is highly incremental, and not necessarily contingent upon the syntax. In addition, they demonstrate that we can use ERPs to relatively selectively keep track of how readers and listeners establish reference.
  • Wassenaar, M., & Hagoort, P. (2007). Thematic role assignment in patients with Broca's aphasia: Sentence-picture matching electrified. Neuropsychologia, 45(4), 716-740. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2006.08.016.

    Abstract

    An event-related brain potential experiment was carried out to investigate on-line thematic role assignment during sentence–picture matching in patients with Broca's aphasia. Subjects were presented with a picture that was followed by an auditory sentence. The sentence either matched the picture or mismatched the visual information depicted. Sentences differed in complexity, and ranged from simple active semantically irreversible sentences to passive semantically reversible sentences. ERPs were recorded while subjects were engaged in sentence–picture matching. In addition, reaction time and accuracy were measured. Three groups of subjects were tested: Broca patients (N = 10), non-aphasic patients with a right hemisphere (RH) lesion (N = 8), and healthy aged-matched controls (N = 15). The results of this study showed that, in neurologically unimpaired individuals, thematic role assignment in the context of visual information was an immediate process. This in contrast to patients with Broca's aphasia who demonstrated no signs of on-line sensitivity to the picture–sentence mismatches. The syntactic contribution to the thematic role assignment process seemed to be diminished given the reduction and even absence of P600 effects. Nevertheless, Broca patients showed some off-line behavioral sensitivity to the sentence–picture mismatches. The long response latencies of Broca's aphasics make it likely that off-line response strategies were used.
  • Willems, R. M., & Hagoort, P. (2007). Neural evidence for the interplay between language, gesture, and action: A review. Brain and Language, 101(3), 278-289. doi:10.1016/j.bandl.2007.03.004.

    Abstract

    Co-speech gestures embody a form of manual action that is tightly coupled to the language system. As such, the co-occurrence of speech and co-speech gestures is an excellent example of the interplay between language and action. There are, however, other ways in which language and action can be thought of as closely related. In this paper we will give an overview of studies in cognitive neuroscience that examine the neural underpinnings of links between language and action. Topics include neurocognitive studies of motor representations of speech sounds, action-related language, sign language and co-speech gestures. It will be concluded that there is strong evidence on the interaction between speech and gestures in the brain. This interaction however shares general properties with other domains in which there is interplay between language and action.
  • Willems, R. M., Ozyurek, A., & Hagoort, P. (2007). When language meets action: The neural integration of gesture and speech. Cerebral Cortex, 17(10), 2322-2333. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhl141.

    Abstract

    Although generally studied in isolation, language and action often co-occur in everyday life. Here we investigated one particular form of simultaneous language and action, namely speech and gestures that speakers use in everyday communication. In a functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we identified the neural networks involved in the integration of semantic information from speech and gestures. Verbal and/or gestural content could be integrated easily or less easily with the content of the preceding part of speech. Premotor areas involved in action observation (Brodmann area [BA] 6) were found to be specifically modulated by action information "mismatching" to a language context. Importantly, an increase in integration load of both verbal and gestural information into prior speech context activated Broca's area and adjacent cortex (BA 45/47). A classical language area, Broca's area, is not only recruited for language-internal processing but also when action observation is integrated with speech. These findings provide direct evidence that action and language processing share a high-level neural integration system.

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